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Author: Matthias Sandau

As school learning should enable people to self-determine their own lives, its long-lasting relevance for participation in further education is an essential outcome. Contemporary adult education research shows that beliefs and memories from one’s school years have an impact on the motivation to pursue further education in working life. However, almost no longitudinal research exists that investigates the long-term forces behind adults’ motivation to educate themselves. Hence, the present study examined whether students’ learning-related behaviour, cognitions and emotions that developed in their school years are related to the subjective value they place on further education, their expectations of success in solving further learning tasks, and thus the likelihood of participating in further education. Corresponding structural equation analyses on data from the German panel study LifE (n = 1,110) revealed that the learning behaviour, ability self-concept and test anxiety at the age of 12, along with their individual change between the ages of 12 and 16, are associated in different ways with the attainment value and subjective costs placed on further education and expectations of success at the age of 35. In contrast, no influence of youth characteristics on the likelihood of participating in further education could be found. The findings indicate that especially the development of learning-related cognitions and emotions in secondary school is sustainably related to the individual’s success expectancy and achievement value of further education. Long-term dependencies should be further investigated with regard to academic domains and socio-economic pathways.

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Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) is the national longitudinal study of children and young people in the Republic of Ireland and has followed two cohorts for over ten years to date: Cohort '98 who were recruited into the study at age nine years and Cohort '08, recruited at age nine months. The study aims to describe the lives of Irish children and young people in terms of their development, with a view to positively affecting policies and services available for them. Traditionally, data collection involved in-home visits from an interviewer who conducted face-to-face interviews, recorded physical measurements of study participants and administered cognitive assessments. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions, significant adaptations were required to these methods to ensure data collection for the pilot and main fieldwork for Cohort '08 at age 13 could continue to the expected timeline. Face-to-face interviews with participants were replaced with telephone and web-based modes, interviewer training was conducted online, online resources were made available for interviewers and participants and COVID-19 related items were added to questionnaires. In addition to the scheduled data collection, a special COVID-19 survey was also conducted on both GUI cohorts in December 2020 to explore the impact of the pandemic on participants’ lives. This paper outlines the adaptations made to traditional data collection methods in GUI, highlighting the challenges that were met, but also the benefits of some changes that may be worth incorporating into future waves of GUI.

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Findings from longitudinal research, globally, repeatedly emphasise the importance of a taking an early life course approach to mental health promotion; one that invests in the formative years of development, from early childhood to young adulthood, just prior to the transition to parenthood for most. While population monitoring systems have been developed for this period, they are typically designed for use within discrete stages (i.e., childhood or adolescent or young adulthood). No system has yet captured development across all ages and stages (i.e., from infancy through to young adulthood). Here we describe the development, and pilot implementation, of a new Australian Comprehensive Monitoring System (CMS) designed to address this gap by measuring social and emotional development (strengths and difficulties) across eight census surveys, separated by three yearly intervals (infancy, 3-, 6-, 9- 12-, 15-, 18 and 21 years). The systems also measures the family, school, peer, digital and community social climates in which children and young people live and grow. Data collection is community-led and built into existing, government funded, universal services (Maternal Child Health, Schools and Local Learning and Employment Networks) to maximise response rates and ensure sustainability. The first system test will be completed and evaluated in rural Victoria, Australia, in 2022. CMS will then be adapted for larger, more socio-economically diverse regional and metropolitan communities, including Australian First Nations communities. The aim of CMS is to guide community-led investments in mental health promotion from early childhood to young adulthood, setting secure foundations for the next generation.

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Among the many social characteristics that run in the family, education is one of the most strongly persistent. The long-term changes in educational reproduction within families and across generations and the gender-specific drivers of these changes remain partially unclear. Using population data for all Finnish siblings and their parents, we assessed the level of and trends in the intergenerational persistence of education among cohorts born between 1950 and 1989. The variance in education shared among siblings was 37% and remained stable over time. Parental education steadily increased its explanatory power in the shared variance, from 30% among cohorts born in the 1950s to 40% among cohorts born in the 1970s and 1980s. The direct contribution of maternal education net of paternal education for sibling similarity more than doubled across cohorts (from 5% in 1950 to 13% in 1989). The direct contribution of paternal education (10–12%) remained stable. Same-gender siblings resembled each other in education more closely than their opposite-gender counterparts. The growing importance of maternal education over time, which surpasses the predictive power of paternal education, demonstrates an important qualitative change in the determinants of educational stratification. The growing importance of mothers’ education can plausibly result from the strengthening meritocratic achievement of women in education and the associated increase of women in defining the social position of the family. Incorporating the education of both parents in future analyses of intergenerational reproduction of education will probably be increasingly salient.

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Young people not participating in education, employment or training (NEET) are a key policy concern in Europe. In this study, we bring forward the idea of hope as a form of life course agency to examine whether hopeful thinking plays a protective role against the risk of being NEET in the context of the British welfare state. Hope is conceptualised as multidimensional: being a temporally embedded, agentic mentality comprised of one’s sense of adaptive decision-making in the present and pathways-thinking towards the future. Longitudinal estimations based on the latest Understanding Society microdata (2009–19) indicate a direct association between higher-hope modes, on average, and a lower likelihood of being NEET. Further, interaction models assess whether hopeful agency is moderated by the experience of parental worklessness. Findings indicate that hopeful agency is shown to be important in the face of NEET risks borne of family background. For the UK, building and ensuring that young people maintain an adaptive, agentic mentality towards their future in education or employment over the long term, may prove one cost-effective policy approach.

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Authors: Emer Smyth and Adriana Duta

This article draws on the Growing Up in Ireland study and the Scottish sample of the Millennium Cohort Study to explore the factors influencing inequalities in children’s cognitive skills on entry to primary education. It adopts a multidimensional comparative approach, which directly compares the effects of parental education and household income on several cognitive outcomes (vocabulary, language, reading and numbers) among five-year-old children and examines the extent to which inequalities in these outcomes are mediated by the home learning environment (HLE) and early childhood education (ECE). Home learning environment plays a stronger role in explaining actual vocabulary differences in Ireland while it plays a stronger role in school readiness (teacher-assessed skills) in Scotland. In both countries, use of centre-based care at 9 months and 3 years was markedly higher among the top income quintile. Centre-based care is found to play a mediating role in school readiness in Scotland. Nonetheless, the findings point to important direct effects of family background even when HLE and childcare are taken into account. The analyses point to differences in the trajectory of early skill development in the two countries, with the impact of early skill development being more marked in Scotland than Ireland. Comparative analyses of this kind thus yield important insights for policy development by highlighting potential domains (such as childcare) or timing (preschool or within-school) for intervention.

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Understanding of how socio-economic disadvantage experienced over the life course relates to mental health outcomes in young adulthood has been limited by a lack of long-term, prospective studies. Here we address this limitation by drawing on data from a large Australian population cohort study that has followed the development of more than 2,000 Australians (and their families) from infancy to young adulthood since 1983. Associations were examined between prospective assessments of socio-economic position (SEP) from 4–8 months to 27–28 years and mental health problems (depression, anxiety, stress) and competence (civic engagement, emotional maturity, secure intimate relationship) at 27–28 years. The odds of being socio-economically disadvantaged in young adulthood were elevated eight- to tenfold in those who had experienced disadvantage in the family of origin, compared with those who had not (OR 8.1, 95% CI 4.5–14.5 to 10.1, 95% CI 5.2–19.5). Only concurrent SEP was associated with young adult mental health problems, and this effect was limited to anxiety symptoms (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.1–3.9). In contrast, SEP had more pervasive impacts on young adult competence, particularly in the civic domain where effects were evident even from early infancy (OR 0.46, 95% CI 0.26–0.81). Findings suggest that one potentially important mechanism through which disadvantage compromises mental health is through limiting the development and consolidation of key psychosocial competencies needed for health and well-being in adulthood.

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While research has investigated the effects of the Great Recession on the Irish economy using economic indicators or cross-sectional household-level data, this research note applies group-based multitrajectory modelling to provide a more nuanced approach. Using nationally representative, longitudinal data from the Growing Up in Ireland study, we analyse patterns in three common measures of economic well-being (financial strain; disposable income; material deprivation) across Irish households in the period leading up to, during and after the Great Recession, and subsequently, break down the characteristics for each group of trajectories. We identify six distinct trajectory clusters, which all indicate declining income and increasing financial strain from the start to the height of the economic depression. However, trajectory groupings show that experiences were far from uniform, with previous economic well-being and demographic characteristics shaping the household experience. Implications for future research are discussed.

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Authors: Cody Warner and Emily Cady

Young adults are co-residing with their parents at higher rates now than in the past, and recent research has explored the correlates of both leaving and subsequently returning to the parental home. Of relevance here, females tend to leave home earlier than their male counterparts, and research finds that drinking and drug use are also linked to residential transitions. This research note explores if substance use during adolescence and young adulthood plays a role in gender differences in home-leaving and home-returning. We find that marijuana use plays a role in both home-leaving and home-returning, with adolescent females who use marijuana the most at risk for early exits from home, and marijuana using males the most at risk for home-returning.

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