Family structure and DALSC
The family sphere is an important arena; forming children’s lives and affecting their future possibilities in life. For policy makers, for instance, it is very important to have knowledge about whether a causal relationship exists between how children are brought up at early age and their well-being at an older age. The five waves of DALSC support researchers with unique knowledge of the inside workings of the family. Where the unique Danish register data can tell us what path families choose to pursue, the longitudinal framework of DALSC can explain the reason why the families choose to pursue this path over another.
Many other (Western) countries have experienced developments similar to the Nordic welfare state model i.e. universalism and public supply of care, due to the political pressure to increase the supply of female labour. The analogous progress in other countries makes it of international interest to investigate the impact of the “new” family structure regime in a Nordic country. DALSC is a mean to do so. The unique position of connecting the longitudinal survey with Danish register data covering the socioeconomic background of all the parents of the children, makes way for all kinds of research into children and family relationships.
The 5th collection of data for The Danish Longitudinal Survey of Children (DALSC) is being collected during the autumn 2010. DALSC is a unique survey of 6,000 randomly chosen Danish children, all born in 1995. DALSC is the first longitudinal study in Denmark which aims to monitor children from birth until adulthood, and which allows research into the relationship between living conditions in childhood and subsequent life as an adult. Mothers of the children have been interviewed four times and the children once. The 5th round of interviews is now under way and both the mothers and their children are being interviewed once again, this time the children are 15 years old.
The longitudinal design implies that the survey repeats questions from one wave of the survey to the next, which allows analysis of development over time and of causal relationships. However, because DALSC has followed the children since infancy (around 6 months), some questions are no longer relevant. The first wave (1996) took place towards the end of the normal maternity leave period (i.e. within 24 weeks of birth) in order to describe the children’s situation before the parents (primarily the mother) eventually returned to work. At the time of the second wave (1999) the children were around three years old and well into their ‘daycare career’. At this time, the daycare alternatives (e.g. full time daycare centre or part-time daycare centre and part-time care in the home), combined with other life circumstances, are important in determining the children’s well-being. The third data collection (2003) followed the important transition from daycare to schooling, when the children were around seven years old. In the fourth wave (2007) the children were around 11 years old and had attended school for a few years (most were in the third grade). The 2007 wave of the survey was the first wave in which the children were old enough to supply information themselves. The fourth wave included both cognitive and behavioural screening of the children.
The 5th wave concerns the important transition from childhood to adolescence. In Denmark a person can be held criminally liable for their actions at the age of 14, so the adolescent is now responsible for her or his actions, although the parents still have the obligation to maintain the child until the age of 18.
Much of the information about the parents is drawn from administrative registers at Statistics Denmark. Consequently, this part of the data is a genuine longitudinal data set (or panel data), in which all information is repeated at least once a year.