“Growing Up In Ireland” Conference Launches First Major Report

Media Release for the first major report on the lives of children In Ireland, ESRI, Dublin.



In-Depth Findings Released on the Health, Education and
Social and Emotional Well-Being of 8,500 Nine-Year-Olds Monday 7th December 2009 – The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Mr. Barry Andrews T.D., today launched the first major report from Growing Up in Ireland, the national longitudinal study of children tracking the lives of over 8,500 nine-year-olds. The report was launched at the Study’s inaugural research conference held in Dublin Castle. Growing Up in IrelandThe Lives of 9-Year-Olds” provides a comprehensive picture of how children are faring across a range of key areas in their lives including their health, education, social, emotional and behavioural status. In general, the report shows that children in Ireland are doing well in these areas. It does, however, highlight particular concerns in the three important areas of: (i) weight/obesity; (ii) inequalities related to socio-economic status and (iii) prevalence and nature of bullying. The 150-page report, the first in a series, draws on findings from the first wave of in-depth interviews with 8,500 nine-year-olds and their families, teachers, school principals and other significant carers. (A full download of the report and the executive summary can be found at http://www.growingup.ie/index.php?id=62.) Speakers at today’s conference discussed the study’s findings and explored its research and policy potential. Along with Irish experts speakers included the internationally renowned:

  • Professor Sir Michael Rutter, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London;
  • Dr. Satya Brink, Director of National Learning Policy Research with Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC);
  • Professor John Bynner, Emeritus Professor of Social Sciences in Education at the Institute of Education, London.

Key Findings from the report include:

  • There are just over 56,400 nine-year-olds in Ireland. Just over 82% of them lived in two-parent households with about one-in-five living in lone-parent families.
  • Two-parent families are almost three times more likely than single-parent families to be in the highest family income groups.
  • The majority of children lived in families in which the parents adopted what is generally regard to be the optimal parenting style – the authoritative style. This combines high control with high support and is usually associated with the best outcomes for children.
  • Almost all nine-year-olds (98%) were reported by their mother to be in good health. 73% are described as Very Healthy and a further 25% as Healthy, but a few minor problems.
  • Children from Professional/Managerial backgrounds were significantly more likely to be rated as healthy (76%) compared with those from Semi-skilled/Unskilled manual backgrounds (69%).
  • Using international definitions and thresholds 74% of children were described as being of normal weight, 19% were overweight and 7% were obese.
  • Children’s weight and obesity was strongly linked to that of their parents. Where both parents were overweight or obese, 33% of children were overweight or obese. This compares with 11% of children in households where neither parent was overweight or obese.
  • Rates of GP visits are highest amongst girls and amongst those with full medical card coverage.
  • A very large majority of nine-year-olds (93%) said they liked school at least ‘sometimes’. 53% of children said they ‘always’ liked their teacher and 41% said they ‘sometimes’ like them.
  • The child’s academic performance, as measured by the standard reading and mathematics tests, varied by social class, income and maternal education, with those from the higher classes, higher income, and higher educated groups achieving higher scores on the tests.
  • 40% of 9-year-olds reported being a victim of bullying in the past year, and boys and girls experienced similar rates of victimisation.
  • A large proportion of the children’s mothers were unaware of their children’s experiences of bullying. Although 40% of children reported that they were the victim of bullying only 23% of their mothers reported this to be the case. Either parents don’t know about the problem or they define bullying differently to their children.

The Growing Up in Ireland project is a Government funded study following the progress of almost 20,000 children – a Child Cohort of 8,500 nine-year-olds and an Infant Cohort of 11,000 nine-month-olds. The study is being conducted by a consortium of researchers led by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and Trinity College Dublin. Today’s report is one of a series of 20 research reports which will be produced on both the Child and Infant cohorts over the next three years. The data on which this first report is based will be lodged by the end of the year in the national data archive, the Irish Social Science Data Archive (ISSDA) for other researchers to access and analyse. Speaking at the launch of the report the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Mr Barry Andrews T.D. said: ‘Already we can see how Growing Up in Ireland has the potential to assist in developing policies that will improve the lives of children in Ireland and I am confident that this first publication from the cohort of nine-year old children will prove to be of enormous benefit to both policy makers and practitioners’. Also speaking today, Prof. James Williams, Research Professor, ESRI and Principal Investigator and Co-Director, Growing Up in Ireland, said: “It is important to note that this is the first in a series of reports on the Child Cohort and that we will be returning to these same children when they are 13-years-old. As data from subsequent rounds of the study becomes available they will allow a full analysis of the development of child outcomes and the preliminary analysis presented in today’s report will be built upon. By providing this evidence-base of research and insights into children and childhood, the Study will inform and contribute to the setting of responsive policies and the design of services for children and their families.” Thanking all those who have contributed to the study to date, Prof. Sheila Greene, Director of the Children’s Research Centre, TCD and Co-Director, Growing Up in Ireland, said: “Growing Up in Ireland has benefited greatly from the help and assistance of a very large number of people, groups and organisations. We are extremely grateful to all of them. We are deeply indebted to all the principals, teachers and administrative staff in the schools which participated in the study and appreciate that Growing Up in Ireland added considerably to their already very heavy workload. The biggest word of thanks goes, of course, to the 8,570 nine-year-olds and their families who participated in the study, initially in their schools and subsequently in their homes. Growing Up in Ireland would not have been possible without the time and assistance which t! hey so readily and generously provided to us.” Further details on the conference and the Growing Up in Ireland study can be found at www.growingup.ie ENDS/
For Further Information please contact: Jillian Heffernan, Communications Officer, Growing Up in Ireland, 01 896 3378, or Mobile: 087 9016880.

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