Collection: Longitudinal and Life Course Studies Most Read of 2021

 

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Longitudinal and Life Course Studies most read of 2021

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Given increasing maternal labour-market participation in many European countries, there is an ongoing scientific and public debate on the potential consequences for children’s development. Previous research has used both cross-sectional measures of maternal employment at a particular age of the child and measures capturing maternal employment history. Whereas the former approach cannot capture the cumulative impact of maternal employment on developmental outcomes, studies following the second approach have so far not accounted for the possibility that mothers may repeatedly change their labour-force participation in response to their children’s development or other dynamic context factors that are themselves affecting developmental outcomes.

The present study combines statistical techniques that can account for time-varying confounders with cumulative measurement of maternal employment to investigate its link with children’s behavioural problems around age eight. In addition, our study explores whether the effect of maternal employment history differs by mothers’ education. Using data from the Growing Up in Scotland study, we find that children’s behavioural problems around age eight are the less pronounced the more years their mothers have worked full-time or part-time. However, these associations reduced in size once we adjusted for potential confounders and they do not significantly differ between mothers with and without a tertiary degree. These results suggest that the association between maternal employment history and behavioural problems around age eight is mostly driven by confounding factors such as maternal education, child health and socio-economic status.

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Poor physical health and behavioural and emotional problems in childhood have a lasting impact on well-being in adolescence and adulthood. Here we address the relationship between poor parent and child physical and mental health in early childhood (age 5) and conduct, hyperactivity and emotional problems in mid-childhood (age 10/11). We compare results across two generations of British children born 30 years apart in 1970 (n = 15,856) and 2000/2 (16,628). We take advantage of rich longitudinal birth cohort data and establish that a child’s own poor health was associated with conduct, hyperactivity and emotional problems in mid-childhood in both generations, and that with the exception of conduct problems in the 1970 cohort these relationships remained when family socio-economic status and individual characteristics were accounted for. Poor maternal mental health was similarly associated with conduct, hyperactivity and emotional problems in both generations; poor parental physical health with a child having later hyperactivity and emotional problems in the younger generation. Results also indicated that earlier behaviour problems had more influence on later problems for children in the more recent cohort. Given the increasing proportion of children and adolescents with mental health problems and that socio-economic disadvantage increases physical and mental well-being concerns within families, policy solutions must consider the holistic nature of a child’s family environment to prevent some children experiencing a ‘double whammy’ of disadvantage. The early years provide the best opportunity to promote children’s resilience and well-being and minimise the development of entrenched negative behaviours and their subsequent costs to society.

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We study labour market outcomes by formal differentiation at upper secondary and tertiary level in Finland. Using full population register data, we take individuals born in 1976 and explore their socio-economic status and the probability of unemployment by educational qualifications and social origin in early adulthood (age 30) and at occupational maturity (age 40). We differentiate based on the level of maths, the most consequential subject choice at general upper secondary education, and show that subject-level choices divert students to stratified tertiary-level degrees and labour market positions net of prior school performance, social origin and gender. In addition, we show that educational performance and qualifications mediate the association between social origin and socio-economic status by 81‒83%, leaving around one fifth to unobserved social origin differences. We also find that there are no major differences between upper secondary school tracks with respect to experiencing unemployment at age 30 or 40. Moreover, further educational degrees do not appear to provide additional protection against unemployment than having obtained an upper secondary qualification.

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Mainstream life course studies often draw on a conventional understanding of time as a unidirectional clock-based entity, which proceeds in a uniform and linear manner. This paper argues that, in order to understand the social, relational and psychological processes of change and continuity that characterise life course processes, we need to adopt a more comprehensive and explicit conceptualisation of time – a conceptualisation that goes beyond an absolute (linear, chronological, uniform) definition – to incorporate the notion of relative time. Drawing on insights from narrative and biographical research, discussions of the temporal embeddedness of human agency and multidisciplinary research on time perceptions and time perspectives, we propose a definition of relative time based on three main characteristics: its multidirectional, elastic and telescopic nature. The paper promotes the integration of absolute and relative time in the study of life course processes, and the important role of prospective qualitative research in this respect, and outlines future avenues for research in this direction.

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Turning points describe a fundamental change of direction in a life course trajectory. However, they are challenging to study because of their temporal extension, the complexity of processes at stake during those critical life sequences, and the fact that individuals’ interpretation as well as more objective changes in social status and position play important roles in turning points. Panel-based mixed methods designs are well suited to address those challenges. In-depth interview data enable researchers to understand individuals’ interpretations and offer detailed understanding of the processes at stake on multiple levels and domains. The panel survey data allow a glimpse into the respondents’ past, which can serve as a detailed resource for further case-based information. At the same time, the continuing survey data collection in prospective waves yields important data on respondents’ futures that can be analysed against the background of the told history. In this paper, we draw on data from a mixed methods study on the labour market trajectories of 23 descendants of immigrants in Germany, based on the Socio-Economic Panel survey (SOEP). The aim of the paper is to show the potential of combining retrospective interviews and panel data to account for the objective as well as subjective dimensions of turning points. Combining qualitative data and panel data does not aim at reaching the ‘right’ understanding of each case but at obtaining a multifaceted picture of respondents’ lives, which can help to avoid misinterpretation and under-theorisation.

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