Release type: Media Release

Date:

How children are growing up in Australia

Ministers:

The Hon Julie Collins MP
Minister for Community Services, Indigenous Employment and Economic Development
Minister for the Status of Women

A new report has found children from low-socioeconomic families are less likely to believe they are doing well at school and to enjoy reading books than children from high-socioeconomic families.

The annual report, Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children 2010–11, found 53 per cent of children aged 10 to 11 years from low-socioeconomic families believed they were doing well at school compared with 64 per cent of children from high-socioeconomic families.

The findings from the study provide the research for the acclaimed ABC1 television series, Life. The first of two new episodes of the series, Life at 7, goes to air tonight at 8.30.

Minister for Community Services, Julie Collins, said the report reinforced the Australian Government’s commitment to give all Australian families a “fair go”.

“The study shows the importance of the Australian Government’s focus on supporting families,” Ms Collins said.

“We understand that some low and middle income families are finding it tough to make ends meet and that financial stress affects the whole family, including children and their chances of continuing their education.

“That’s why the Australian Government is committed to supporting low and middle income families through initiatives such as the Schoolkids Bonus.”

About half of children from low-socioeconomic families reported they enjoyed reading at home, compared with about three-quarters of children from high-socioeconomic families.

Only 39 per cent of girls reported enjoying maths at school compared with 59 per cent of boys, but more girls (61 per cent) enjoyed reading and writing than boys (45 per cent). 

Other areas covered in the report include children’s weight management, children’s attitudes to their neighbourhoods, parents’ knowledge of their children’s friends, whether the beliefs of parents and children are closely aligned and whether parents know what their children are doing during the day.

Children were also asked about their worries and concerns, including family issues and their personal appearance. The study found that children were more worried about their parents losing their jobs (49 per cent) than the way they looked (21 per cent) or not fitting in with their friends (29 per cent).

Children from low-socioeconomic families were substantially more concerned than children from high-socioeconomic families about family issues such as parents losing their jobs, fighting in the family, family members becoming sick or injured and alcohol and drugs.

Less than a quarter of children from high-socioeconomic families worried about their parents losing their jobs compared with more than a third of children from low-socioeconomic families.  

Ms Collins said these findings emphasise the importance of Australian Government initiatives to help Australians stay in school and find work and build themselves a better life.

“We want all children to stay in school or get school-based apprenticeships to give them the best chance at getting a good job - children who complete their education are better off in the long term,” Ms Collins said.

The study, commissioned by the Australian Government, follows 10,000 children over the course of their childhood, and measures their physical, cognitive and socio-emotional development.

The annual report includes findings from interviews with more than 4,000 families with children aged 10 to 11 years and will help to design policies and programs that will make a difference.

Life at 7 follows on from the popular Life at 1, Life at 3 and Life at 5 productions. It continues the stories of the children featured in the first three series and reflects the research findings, this time with a focus on temperament and peers.

Ms Collins said the series will help all Australians understand some of the challenges facing working families.

To view the report visit www.fahcsia.gov.au