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  • Author or Editor: Ann Sanson x
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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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The Australian New Zealand Intergenerational Cohort Consortium (ANZ-ICC) brings together three of the longest running intergenerational cohort studies in Australia and New Zealand to examine the extent to which preconception parental life histories (from infancy to parenthood) predict next generation early health and development. The aims are threefold: (1) to describe pathways of advantage that strengthen emotional health and well-being from one generation to the next, (2) to describe pathways of disadvantage that perpetuate cycles of emotional and behavioural problems across generations, and (3) to identify modifiable factors capable of breaking intergenerational cycles. The Victorian Intergenerational Health Cohort Study has followed 1,943 young Australians from adolescence to adulthood across ten waves since 1992, and 1,030 offspring from pregnancy to early childhood since 2006. The Australian Temperament Project Generation 3 Study has followed 2,443 young Australians from infancy to adulthood across 15 waves since 1983, and 1170 offspring from pregnancy to early childhood since 2012. The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study Parenting Study has followed 1,037 young New Zealanders across 15 waves since 1972, and 730 offspring in early childhood since 1994. Cross-cohort replication analyses will be conducted for common preconception exposures and next generation offspring outcomes, while integrated data analysis of pooled data will be used for rare exposures and outcomes. The ANZ-ICC represents a unique collaboration that bridges the disciplines of lifecourse epidemiology, biostatistics, developmental psychology and psychiatry, to study the role of parental preconception exposures on next generation health and development.

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Findings from longitudinal research, globally, repeatedly emphasise the importance of 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 system 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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