For over a decade, the Growing Up in Scotland study (GUS) has been tracking the lives of thousands of children and their families across Scotland. This year’s annual conference, held at Edinburgh’s Royal College of Physicians, involved lively discussion of this year’s findings, as well as new and emerging analyses of GUS data and future plans for the study.
The event was chaired by Alan Sinclair, and kicked off with an address from Maree Todd MSP - the newly-appointed Scottish Minister for Childcare and Early Years. She stressed the value of the study to the Scottish Government, and outlined the ways in which GUS data is being used to help make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up.
Next, Line Knudsen presented findings from a recent GUS report which examined patterns of maternal employment in Scotland. Line's presentation discussed findings revealing some of the key barriers to paid work among mothers with young children in Scotland, and implications for policy makers who are looking to help mothers to secure paid work. She also highlighted the importance of taking a holistic approach that cuts across policy areas, rather than relying on single-issue solutions.
Alison Parkes then presented findings from a further GUS report published in 2017. This report explored father-child relationships and child wellbeing using data collected from 10 year old children in 2014/15. The key takeaways from this presentation were that father's emotional support is closely tied with several aspects of ten year-old children's wellbeing, which supports the principle that health and welfare services should strive to engage with fathers as well as with mothers.
We also heard from Paul McCrorie, who presented findings from another recent GUS report exploring physical activity levels among a group of children in the oldest birth cohort when they were around10 years old. Interestingly, Paul’s presentation revealed how the proportion of children found to meet physical activity guidelines varies considerably depending on which measure is used. Using a ‘threshold approach’, where children must be active for at least 60 minutes every day of the week, only 11% of children met the guidelines. However, using an ‘averaging approach’, where children only had to be active for an average of 60 minutes a day across the week, 60% met the guidelines.
After a quick break, attendees returned for a “quick-fire” session where we heard about new and emerging GUS findings. Susan McVie, Larry Doi, Liz Richardson and Louise Marryat discussed their research on a range of diverse topics, including youth offending, childhood obesity, the importance of green space and adverse childhood experiences. A major takeaway from this session was that, as the GUS children grow older, data collected from the study will become relevant to an even more diverse range of policy areas. So watch this space!
To end proceedings, Paul Bradshaw reflected on what’s next for GUS. Most significantly, Paul revealed that the oldest birth cohort is being ‘boosted’ as part of the age 12 sweep. This will create a new ‘adolescent’ cohort alongside the existing birth cohort and ensure that the number of children and families taking part remains large enough for analysts to make the most of the data.
All in all, it was great to reflect on another hugely productive year for GUS, and a good opportunity to meet practitioners, policy makers and researchers from a range of fields. Roll on 2018!
The slides from the event can be found here.