Longitudinal Study of Australian Children: Key Research Questions
The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) is based on a bioecological framework of human development (Sanson, Nicholson, Ungerer, Zubrick, & Wilson, 2002). This approach places an emphasis on both the immediate and broader environment as important for child development (Figure 1). It explicitly acknowledges the childÂ’s own contribution to their development and highlights time as an important influence (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998, 2006).
Figure 1: Bronfenbrenner: Ecological theory of child development
Source: Santrock, J.W. (2007). Child Development. Eleventh edition. NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
In applying this conceptual framework, the LSAC takes a developmental pathways approach, emphasising trajectories of development across the lifespan. This perspective seeks to identify the factors that influence pathways for good and for poor outcomes. How these factor vary, especially at crucial transition points such as entry into child care or school or movement out of education into the workforce, is able to be identified and explored.
The LSAC Key Research Questions were first developed in 2002 to ensure that the LSAC reflected a strong theoretical understanding of child development and addressed issues relevant to social policy. A review of these questions was conducted in 2008 to make sure that the study continued to measure age-relevant issues and circumstances as the children moved into adolescence. These questions were reviewed again in 2015 to reflect the childrenÂ’s transition into adulthood. The following is the new set of Key Research Questions that were developed during this review.
Key research questions
Key Research Question A
What earlier factors directly influence and/or mediate or moderate an adultÂ’s later physical health and development over time? What is the effect of earlier physical health development on an adultÂ’s overall wellbeing and on other specific outcomes, and how does this influence change over time?
Key Research Question B
What are the nature and impacts of early family composition, relationships and dynamics on the adult outcome domains, and how do these relationships and their effects change over time?
Key Research Question C
What is the influence of prior parental labour force participation, education and economic status on the individual adult outcome domains? How do the impacts of prior parental labour force participation, education and economic status change over time?
Key Research Question D
What are the prior effects of non-parental child care and childrenÂ’s school engagement and achievement on individual adult outcome domains? How do these experiences and influences change over time and relate to adult outcomes?
Key Research Question E
What is the influence of participation in education, training and the labour force on adult outcomes?
Key Research Question F
What are the impacts of childrenÂ’s use of time on individual adult outcomes? Do different patterns of time use produce differential adult outcomes?
Key Research Question G
Which prior child, parental and community beliefs, attitudes and expectations influence adult outcomes? Do different patterns and effects of these beliefs, attitudes and expectations produce differing adult outcomes?
Key Research Question H
How do circumstances such as the prior parental labour force participation, education and economic status of children, families and communities help individuals achieve resilience and thus the ability to cope with transitions or adversity? How do these factors influence individual adult outcomes and how do these influences change over time?
What do we mean by 'outcomes'
In these Key Research Questions the term Â‘outcomesÂ’ refers to a diverse range of child, adolescent and adult outcomes. The transition from infancy to adulthood involves such processes as acquiring skills and knowledge, developing mental and physical capacities, establishing personality, improving social competencies, and emotional maturity. These outcomes are summarised into four Â‘domainsÂ’ which are proposed as the major components of current wellbeing and the future capability to be a successful civic and economic participant. These domains and some of the constructs they include are:
Health and physical development
- health-related quality of life/health functioning
- global health
- special needs
- perinatal indicators such as birth-weight and gestational age
- specific health issues such as asthma, oral health, vision, sleep problems, toileting problems (enuresis, constipation), headache, allergies
- injuries and hospital admissions
- motor skills
- physical activity, fitness and cardiovascular health
- height, weight and girth
Social and emotional functioning
- mental health including:
- internalising problems (e.g. anxiety, depression)
- externalising problems (e.g conduct problems, hyperactivity)
- social competence
- self esteem, self-concept
- parent-child, teacher-child and peer relationships
- civic engagement and social consciousness
- issues such as substance use, antisocial behaviours, risk taking behaviours and eating disorders
Learning and cognitive development
- non-verbal reasoning
- language - vocabulary, communication skills and receptive language
- academic readiness
- literacy and numeracy competence
- academic achievement
- school engagement and adjustment
- economic participation
- social participation
- civic participation and citizenship
- educational attainment and skill development (cognitive and non-cognitive skills)
- relationships within and outside the family
- family formation and parenting
- personal safety/security and housing
- health status
- social and emotional adjustment
For more information on the review of the key research questions, including a list of the previous versions of the key research questions, please see the full report.
- Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (1998). The ecology of developmental processes. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology (5th ed., Vol. 1, pp. 993-1028). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
- Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (2006). The bioecological model of human development. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 793-828). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
- Sanson, A., Nicholson, J., Ungerer, J., Zubrick, S., & Wilson, K. (2002). Introducing the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. LSAC Discussion paper No. 1. Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.
- Zubrick, S. R., Taylor, C. L., Lawrence, D. M., Mitrou, F. G., Christensen, D., & Dalby, R. (2009). The development of human capability across the lifecourse: Perspectives from childhood. Australian Epidemiologist, 16(3), 6-10.