The life of a 17/18-year-old in 2016
The latest research findings from the Growing Up in Ireland study provide significant insights into the lives of 17- and 18-year-olds in Ireland. The data are published in the latest Key Findings reports from the national longitudinal study of children.
Dr Katherine Zappone, TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, will launch the reports at the Growing Up in Ireland annual research conference on 3rd November in Croke Park. The conference will also discuss 22 papers from multi-disciplinary researchers using data from various rounds of the study.
The information in the Key Findings reports are the first results from interviews with just over 6,000 17/18-year-olds who have been participating in the study since 2007, when they were 9 years old. The findings focus on four aspects of their lives:
Education and Early Work Experiences
Height, Weight, Physical Activity and Diet
Growing Up in Ireland has been documenting the issue of overweight and obesity among children and young people for nearly a decade and the latest findings indicate that the statistics aren’t improving.
Life Satisfaction, Relationships and Mental Health
Emerging adulthood brings new opportunities, but also responsibilities and sources of stress. How young adults navigate the changes in their lives at this time will influence their current and future well-being.
Risky Health Behaviours and Sexual Activity
Adolescence is often characterised as a time of self-discovery, of new experiences, of forging new relationships. It is often a time of experimentation with tobacco, alcohol and other drugs as well as first sexual experiences. Many of these behaviours can have important consequences in terms of health, education and relationships, as well as interaction with the criminal justice system.
17/18-year-olds were asked a series of questions about their romantic and sexual experiences. The questions referred to a hierarchy of ten romantic and sexual activities such as holding hands, kissing, touching etc., culminating in questions on oral sex and sexual intercourse. This meant that because the activities were presented sequentially, there were several points at which this particular section of the interview could end, depending upon the young person’s responses to earlier questions.
James Williams, Research Professor at the ESRI, commented:
The importance of the Growing Up in Ireland study is that it provides very detailed and often sensitive information from nationally representative samples of children in order to highlight the areas of young people’s lives where they most need support. A significant finding from the research published today is the importance of early interventions in behaviours that compromise health, such as smoking and alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol or smoking at an early age is associated with more frequent and higher levels of consumption by the age of 17/18, which points to clear ways we can help teenagers to make healthier choices. The findings published today represent only a small part of the data available from the latest round of the study, which covers multiple aspects of young people’s lives and provides a valuable picture of people transitioning to adulthood in Ireland today.
Welcoming the publication of the first published findings from the 17/18 data collection, Dr. Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs stated:
I note some of the very positive findings presented today, the majority of 17/18 year olds are healthy, they have positive views of their lives, as well as a positive perception of school, and a substantial majority of 17/18 year olds still in school report they intend to go on to tertiary education; The key findings however also raise some areas of concern, for example, children from families who are better off educationally or financially continue tend to fare better than those who are less well-off across a range of outcomes.
I welcome the rich contribution the Growing Up in Ireland study is making to our knowledge of children’s lives in Ireland. The addition of data on 17/18 year olds will make a valuable contribution to our knowledge of child development over time. It is important that these initial findings, and more detailed findings that will emerge once the data is examined in more detail, are used and understood by those involved in making policy and providing services. I know the data for example is directly relevant to a number of recent policy initiatives including, for example, the National Obesity Strategy and the National Sexual Health Strategy.
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