Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC)

 First year: 2004

Latest year: 2016

Frequency: 2 yearly

Year in this publication: 2010, 2012, 2014

Sample size:  Birth cohort N = 5,107 Kindergarten cohort N = 4,983 (Table 1)

Methodology: Longitudinal survey

Geography: National

Purpose/description

The purpose of the study is to provide data that enable a comprehensive understanding of development and life-course trajectories within Australia's current social, economic and cultural environment. The longitudinal nature of the study enables researchers to examine the dynamics of change through the life course as children develop, and to go beyond the static pictures provided by cross-sectional statistics. The study thereby gives policy-makers and researchers access to quality data about children's development in the contemporary Australian environment.

Scope and coverage

The use of multiple respondents in LSAC provides a rich picture of children's lives and development in various contexts. Across the first 7 waves of the study, data were collected from:

  • parents of the study child
  • Parent 1 defined as the parent who knows the most about the child (not necessarily a biological parent)
  • Parent 2, if there is one defined as another person in the household with a parental relationship to the child, or the partner of Parent 1 (not necessarily a biological parent)
  • a parent living elsewhere, if there is a parent who lives apart from Parent 1 but who has contact with the child
  • the study child
  • carers/teachers (depending on the child's age)
  • interviewers.

In earlier waves of the study, the primary respondent was the child's Parent 1. In the majority of cases, this was the child’s biological mother, but in a small number of families this was someone else who knew the most about the child.

Since Wave 2, the Kindergarten cohort children have answered age-appropriate interview questions, and from Wave 4 they also answered a series of self-complete questions. The Birth cohort children answered a short set of interview questions in Wave 4 for the first time. As children grow older, they are progressively becoming the primary respondents of the study.

The sampling unit for LSAC is the study child. The sampling frame for the study was the Medicare Australia (formerly Health Insurance Commission) enrolments database, which is the most comprehensive database of Australia's population, particularly of young children.

In 2004, approximately 18,800 children (aged 0–1 or 4–5 years) were sampled from this database, using a two-stage clustered design. In the first stage, 311 postcodes were randomly selected (very remote postcodes were excluded due to the high cost of collecting data from these areas).

In the second stage, children were randomly selected within each postcode, with the two cohorts being sampled from the same postcodes. A process of stratification was used to ensure that the numbers of children selected were roughly proportionate to the total numbers of children within each state/territory, and within the capital city statistical districts and the rest of each state. The method of postcode selection took into account the number of children in the postcode; hence, all the potential participants in the study Australia-wide had an approximately equal chance of selection (about one in 25).

FDSV definitions

The primary measure of domestic violence was the question ‘Have you ever been afraid of your current partner?’ Those who responded with either ‘Yes’ were considered as experiencing domestic violence.

In addition, argumentative relationship data (questions for Parent 1 and Parent 2) collected since Wave 1 has a domestic violence element:

  • How often is there anger or hostility between you?
  • How often do you have arguments with your partner that end up with people pushing, hitting, kicking or shoving? 

Since Wave 4, the following question has been included for Parent 1 and Parent 2:

  • Have you ever been afraid of your partner?

Since Wave 7, the following questions have been included for Parents (i.e., Parent 1, Parent 2 and Parent living elsewhere):

  • Have you ever been afraid of study child?
  • Are you currently afraid of study child?
  • How often is there anger or hostility between you and study child?
  • How often do you have arguments with study child that end up with people pushing, hitting, kicking or shoving?

In Wave 7, LSAC collected data on parents’ childhood adversity in terms of domestic violence and sexual abuse:

  • I would like you to think about your family situation when you were growing up and the parental figures you had. These may not be your biological parents. During your childhood, did you experience any of the following?
    • Your father physically abused your mother (punched, hit, kicked, etc.)
    • Your mother physically abused your father (e.g. punched, hit, kicked, etc.)
    • Your father verbally abused your mother (e.g. ridiculed, humiliated, etc.)
    • Your mother verbally abused your mother (e.g. ridiculed, humiliated, etc.)
    • You were verbally abused, ridiculed or humiliated by a parent
    • You received frequent beatings or too much physical punishment (e.g. hitting, smacking)
    • You were sexually abused by someone in your family living  in the household
    • You were sexually abused by someone in your family not living in the household

Table 1: Responses rates for Waves 1 to 7 of the LSAC Cohorts

Wave

Wave 1

Wave 2

Wave 3

Wave 4

Wave 5

Wave 6

Wave 7

Birth cohort age

0-1

2-3

4-5

6-7

8-9

10-11

12-13

Actual responses

5107

4606

4386

4242

4077

3764

3381

% Responding

100

90.2

85.9

83.0

80.0

73.7

66.2

Kindergarten age

4-5

6-7

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

16-17

Actual responses

4983

4464

4332

4164

3956

3537

3089

% Responding

100

89.6

86.9

83.6

79.4

71.0

62.0

For more information, visit Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children