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Growing Up in Ireland

February 4, 2020

On January 20, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) hosted a workshop to promote and support the use of the Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) datasets.

Growing up in Ireland is a national longitudinal study of children, which means that the same individuals are tracked throughout their lives at different points in time. The main purpose of the research is to produce sound evidence for public policy design. Key aims of the study include identifying the key factors determining a child’s development and capturing children’s views and opinions. Data collection started in 2006 on two cohorts: one for children who were 9 months old at the time, which is called the infant cohort, and one for 9-year olds, known as the child cohort. The latest round of data collection was in 2018, when participants from the child cohort were 20 years old, and those from the infant cohort were 9 years old. The research is based on significant samples of the population, and on multiple sources of information, including parents and/or caregivers, the child and their school.

The research covers a wide range of areas, such as:

  • Socio-emotional: it investigates the child’s relationships and lifestyle (including play and activities);
  • Health: child’s health and access to healthcare, nutrition, physical exercise and parental health;
  • Education: childcare arrangements, home learning environment, cognitive development, teacher and school characteristics and teacher perception of child

The longitudinal nature of the study allows for the analysis of the effects of early childhood experiences, such as the type of childcare used, in later life. One of the series of reports published by the ESRI analysing the GUI data examined the effects of non-parental care in early life on cognitive development. The study found that, overall, the type of childcare used at age 3 years did not have a significant impact on cognitive outcomes at age 5 years, after controlling for other factors. Another study showed that the effect of childcare type at age 3 on socio-emotional development at age 5 was very small – and the small differences that arose were potentially attributable to differences in the quality of care, which currently cannot be assessed by the data.

Besides the ESRI reports, the Growing Up in Ireland data set has been widely used by academics and other researchers in a wide range of disciplines, such as psychology, education, public health and economics. Its huge breadth and depth, along with its continuity in time, allows for a much further exploration of its rich content. Early Childhood Ireland plans to join this endeavour. By connecting the everyday experiences and challenges in early years settings to the general trends emerging in national statistics, we are in a unique position to support the potential of the sector, and to advocate for advancements that improve the lives of babies, children and their families in Ireland.

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