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ESRA 2023 Glance Program

All time references are in CEST

Children and Youth cohort studies: developments and innovations 1

Session Organisers Professor Lisa Calderwood (UCL Cente for Longitudinal Studies )
Professor Gary Pollock (Manchester Metropolitan University )
TimeThursday 20 July, 14:00 - 15:30
Room U6-01e

Longitudinal cohort studies of children and youth are a core part of the survey infrastructure in many countries, and in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a renewed focus on such studies as vital evidence bases for child and adolescent research including on well-being, education and labour market. However, the broader context of such studies is increasing challenges with ensuring population representativeness, participant engagement and inclusivity, and the need for sufficient analytical power for research about hard-to-reach groups to inform vital policy questions.

This session will cover recent developments and innovations in child and youth cohort studies. This includes study design approaches for newly established child and youth cohorts, as well as developments in existing cohort studies who survey children and young people.

The session aims to showcase recent developments in the research landscape around child and youth cohorts, and to explore survey methodological issues around surveying children and young people.

Submissions are particularly welcomed on:
- design and implementation of new child and youth cohort studies
- developments in existing child and youth cohort studies
- giving children and young people a voice in study design, and participant co-production
- measurement in child and youth cohorts, including questionnaires and direct assessments
- collecting data on sensitive topics from children and young people
- data collection innovations and mode
- inclusivity in child and youth cohort studies
- assessing the reliability and validity of children and young people’s self-reports
- preventing non-response and innovative approaches to participant engagement
- the challenges of retaining young people’s contact and interest in surveys over time
- ethical issues in involving children and young people in surveys, including informed consent and young people’s rights.
- addressing international comparisons and data harmonisation

Submissions need not be restricted to these specific examples.

Keywords: children, youth, cohort studies


Surveying Teenagers – Different Modes, Teachers’ Supervision and Data Quality

Mr Till Stefes (Ruhr-University Bochum) - Presenting Author

UWE („Umwelt, Wohlbefinden und Entwicklung“ = “Environment, Well-Being and Development”) is a classroom-based, repeated cross-sectional study. It set out asking every youth in grades 7 and 9 in two Ruhr-Area municipalities about their well-being, everyday life, and social resources, every other year since 2019. Multidimensional operationalisation of subjective well-being (including self-esteem, optimism, life-satisfaction, and absence of sorrow and sadness), social resources and contexts (school, home, neighbourhood), allow drawing a comprehensive picture of adolescent life from a socio-ecological perspective.

In 2021, Schools in one town decided not to continue with our cooperation. Therefore, we contacted subjects by letter, inviting them to fill out surveys on their own devices. Interviews could not be supervised by teachers or researchers. The questionnaire underwent significant shortening. But, without schools as stakeholders in the process, we could ask about the quality of distance-learning, a sensitive and controversial topic at the time. In cooperating schools, it was conducted in multiple modes for the first time, having video-calls with full classrooms, online surveys and having youths fill out questionnaires at home or in schools, depending on COVID-regulations and schools’ equipment.

The greatest challenge in both cases and from the very beginning of the project has been obtaining parents’ consent to survey their children, which is mandatory in Germany. Several approaches were tested. A standard letter, handed out by class teachers to be signed and taken back worked out most efficiently, digital solutions yielded mixed results.

Teachers turned out to be crucial for our survey approach: parents trust them (parental consent, unit nonresponse), students respect their authority (unit & item nonresponse, validity) and rely on their expertise (item nonresponse, validity). Part of this study is testing these hypotheses empirically.

“Just ask them, silly”: Post-survey youth advisory groups to reduce attrition in longitudinal studies

Miss Intifar Chowdhury (Australian National University) - Presenting Author
Dr Nikki Honey (Social Research Centre)
Dr Daniel Edwards (Australian Council for Educational Research)
Dr Kylie Hillman (Australian Council for Educational Research)
Mr Lachlan Hugo (Social Research Centre)
Professor Matthew Gray (Australian National University)
Professor Andrew Norton (Australian National University)
Professor Ben Edwards (Australian National University)

Owing to inherent limitations concerning the comparability and generalisability of findings (Baden et al. 2022), existing longitudinal surveys on young people rarely employ post-survey feedback groups as a stand-alone method to design subsequent waves. However, lesser used participant engagement strategies, such as participant advisory groups from sample members can provide important insights about what can be done ‘better’ to retain them in subsequent waves. This paper reports youth views collated from incentive-based advisory groups, which ran as an integrated method to maintain interest, encourage participation and reduce attrition in future waves of the Australian Post-School Destination (GENERATION) survey. These views comprise feedback on Wave 1 (2022) and suggestions for wave 2 (2023) of the longitudinal study. To warrant representativeness within the advisory groups, we recruited participants randomly from various equity groups such as those belonging to low SES backgrounds or those identifying as non-binary. The discussions were conducted real-time using the web-based video conferencing platform, zoom, and captured using the virtual bulletin boards in padlet. Drawing upon eight youth advisory group discussions, we explore the effectiveness of such integrated incentive-based feedback mechanisms of designing future waves. As such, this paper offers valuable new opportunities for actively engaging young people to ensure that youth longitudinal surveys remain representative of the study population over time.

Co-design with adolescents to create innovative digital tools to enhance longitudinal data collection

Professor Susan Morton (University of Auckland) - Presenting Author

In 2019 Growing Up in New Zealand introduced the experimental co-design of digital platforms, working directly with young cohort members to co-create new digital tools to collect multi-modal qualitative data about their wellbeing, on their own terms and in their own voice. The tool was trialed on the existing cohort of 6000 children when they were approximately 13 years of age. The cohort had been followed longitudinally, completing more traditional surveys on multiple occasions, with their parents from before their birth. The process was developed in an attempt to reduce the biased attrition that is common in longitudinal birth cohort studies across the teenage years, as well as to ensure that voices that are least often heard (and more likely to be lost) could continue to enrich the longitudinal data as the cohort moved into early adulthood.
Additionally in order to analyze the multi-modal qualitative data obtained from several thousand cohort members who would engage with the app, innovative Machine Learning techniques were developed in parallel to ensure the new data could be analysed in a timely way and integrated with the existing quantitative longitudinal information as well as the linked administrative data to provide robust and rich evidence about young peoples' wellbeing to inform strategies to improve outcomes for all contemporary NZ children and their families.
We report here on the process of co-design with young people and the results of the innovative trial in terms of capturing diverse cohort voices, as well as the potential utility of this process and tool for reducing attrition and increasing the context relevance of the longitudinal information obtained. We also discuss how the new information is placed in terms of informing current NZ government policies relating to improving wellbeing across the early years of the life.

Incorporating participant voices into a new UK birth cohort feasibility study

Dr Alyce Raybould (University College London) - Presenting Author
Professor Lisa Calderwood (University College London)
Professor Pasco Fearon (University of Cambridge)
Professor Alissa Goodman (University College London)
Dr Erica Wong (University College London)
Ms Karen Dennison (University College London)

The Early Life Cohort Feasibility Study (ELC-FS) aims to test the feasibility of conducting an inclusive UK-birth cohort study, collecting information about several thousand babies and their families at 9-months of age in 2023. One of the aims of the feasibility study is to maximise inclusion of typically under-represented groups through the choice of sampling frame, sample boosts and tailored participant engagement strategies. This presentation gives an overview of the consultation and research with parents and young people we have carried out to inform the content and design of the feasibility study.
We held public dialogue workshops with 122 parents of young children, with Kantar Public, to understand the acceptability of using administrative data as a sampling frame, for targeted recruitment strategies, and for record linkage. We consulted the National Children Bureau’s Family (parents) and Youth (young people aged 10-20) Research Advisory Groups on wider participant engagement and design issues. Participant voices were also incorporated into the choice of the study name and brand, which were tested on two focus groups of parents by IFF Research. Additionally, we conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with Ipsos to hear about potential motivations and barriers to participation in ELC-FS for ‘less-often-heard’ groups: own-household fathers, low-income and ethnic minority families. Also with Ipsos, we have tested our participant materials and carried out cognitive testing of parts of our questionnaires with parents of young children.
Findings from this work have fed into many aspects of ELC-FS study design, including the engagement strategies, recruitment materials, approach to informant eligibility, design of scientific content and fieldwork protocols. Incorporating participant voices into the ELC-FS design has therefore played an essential role in ensuring ELC-FS will maximise representation and inclusivity when it goes to field.

Pre-piloting in a multinational birth cohort study - Growing up in Digital Europe (GUIDE): the results of cognitive interviews with children and carers

Dr Toni Babarović (Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences) - Presenting Author
Miss Eta Krpanec (Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences)
Miss Mirta Blazev (Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences)
Miss Sinead Downey (University College Dublin)
Dr Lidia Panico (Institut national d’études démographiques)
Miss Zoe Perron (Institut national d’études démographiques)
Miss Aurélie Santos (Institut national d’études démographiques)
Dr Laura Taylor (University College Dublin)
Dr Katja Upadyaya (University of Helsinki)
Dr Jennifer Symonds (University College Dublin)

Good practices in piloting large-scale birth cohort studies include a pre-pilot, instrument pilot, and a dress rehearsal. This paper is focused on the pre-piloting of the Europe's first multinational birth cohort study - Growing up in Digital Europe (GUIDE). Pre-pilots are typically performed on small scale, take the form of in-depth interviews, and are conducted to inform questionnaire development. This paper presents the results of cognitive interviews with 8-year-old children, carers of 8-year-olds, and carers of infants from Croatia, France, Finland, and Ireland. The aim of the cognitive interviews was to pre-test the wellbeing related questions as a part of the GUIDE questionnaire development. A total of 68 children and 40 carers participated in the study. The cognitive interviews generated useful recommendations for the interview procedure and the questionnaires’ content. The recommendation for conducting interviews with children is to create a safe and comfortable environment and to minimize the effects of parents’ presence. The instructions, questions and answers should use children-friendly vocabulary and tangible examples, avoid long or complex sentences, and negative statements. Using timeframes in questions should be minimized. The children understand and can use Likert-type scales, but the number of different scales in the questionnaire should be limited. The carers understood most of the instructions, questions, timeframes, and response formats without difficulties. Thus, most questions do not need any changes, or demand only minor refinements to minimise ambiguities or achieve better interview flow. However, the cross-cultural adaptions of several response categories are needed. Also, some recall difficulties were observed where a change from open- to close-ended answering format should facilitate the recall process. Finally, we recommend that some sensitive questions should be moved to the self-completion part of the questionnaire.