29 June 2007
A window on Australia's children
How four year-olds spend their days: Insights into the caring contexts of young children, by Dr Jennifer Baxter and Professor Alan Hayes in Family Matters, no.76, 2007.
They say that the ways children spend their time both reflect and contribute to individual developmental changes and to developmental differences between children. As well, the environment that parents provide for their children sets the scene for the way children use their time.
'The research paper analyses data collected in 2004 as the first segment of a major longitudinal study of Australian children called, Growing up in Australia: the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Parents of children aged 4-5 years were asked to provide details of what children were doing, who they were with, and where they were in a time use diary for two randomly selected days. Our study looks at that data,' Dr Baxter said.
Children's gender and age, and their family's characteristics (single or couple, number of siblings) and parental education and working hours were also considered as key contextual factors.
Professor Hayes said, 'The study indicated that children's time use does affect the way they fare in learning and socio-emotional outcomes (and to a much lesser extent, physical outcomes). For instance, we found that children with higher learning scores put more of their time into achievement related activity and watched less television than do children with lower learning scores.
'However, the longitudinal data and the insights reported in this paper provide a basis for exploring causal relationships between how children spend their time and their development outcomes. We will be able to do this more accurately as more data becomes available. These preliminary results illustrate the richness of the Growing up in Australia longitudinal data as a window on the development of Australia's children,' he said.
Baxter, J. & Hayes, A. (2007). How four year-olds spend their days: Insights into the caring contexts of young children. Family Matters 76: 34-43. Abstract
Dr Jennifer Baxter
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