Press Release

Children’s Lives will be Better Understood

The Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs, Dermot Ahern T.D. and the Minister for Children, Mary Hanafin T.D. have today jointly announced the commissioning of a design brief for a National Longitudinal Study of Children. A longitudinal study of children was identified under the National Children’s Strategy ‘Our Children – Their Lives’ as a key measure to achieve the National Goal “Children’s Lives will be Better Understood”. The case for a longitudinal study was set out by the Commission on the Family in its report to the Government “Strengthening Families for Life” published in July 1998.

A longitudinal study is a comprehensive study, focusing on a significant number of children, which examines their progress and wellbeing at critical periods from birth to adulthood. By studying a representative sample of children over a period of time, it is possible to identify the key factors which protect children in times of adversity and most help and encourage their development.

Welcoming the awarding of the contract the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs Dermot Ahern T.D. said “The longitudinal study will make a significant contribution to knowledge about the lives of children and their families today. Its findings will help the Government to develop effective and responsive policies and services which meet the needs of children and their families in a changing environment”.

“The results from this longitudinal study will add to the knowledge accumulated from other studies already completed or underway in many European countries, as well as the United States, Canada and New Zealand” Minister Ahern added.

Mary Hanafin, Minister of State said ‘The National Children’s Strategy identified the need for a better understanding of children’s lives. Despite the considerable additional resources committed by this Government to children, there continues to be limited empirical data and research-based understanding of children’s lives. Many of our inferences for policy purposes are taken from information derived from studies in other countries. No other type of study can fill this need for a better understanding of children’s wellbeing in Ireland’.

The design of the National Longitudinal Study will be completed in three months. On completion the Government will consider its recommendations as to how the full study could be implemented.

The contract to develop the design for the National Longitudinal Study of Children has been awarded to the Consortium of Researchers in Ireland. The Consortium represent a number of leading academic and research institutions nationwide including Dublin (TCD, UCD, ESRI and the Institute of Public Health) Cork (UCC), Galway (NUI) and a range of disciplines in such fields as health, education, social research, developmental psychology and social change.

The Health Research Board has assisted in the commissioning of the design brief for the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs and the Department of Health and Children.