The importance of parenting and the early years

GUS highlights the importance of parenting and the early years

New research findings from the Growing Up in Scotland study (GUS) were presented at its fifth annual conference held in Glasgow in June. Over 150 professionals from a range of sectors came to hear about the new findings and to discuss the implications for them and the children and families they work with. Contributors included Shirley Laing, Deputy Director for Early Years and Social Services Workforce at the Scottish Government and Dr Christine Puckering, from the Royal Hospital for Sick Children Glasgow and the 'Mellow Babies' parenting programme.

Click here to listen to the presentations and download the presentation slides

GUS has been running for over five years and all the children in the original 'birth cohort' have now started primary school. Interviewers have been visiting participating families every year to collect information on a wide range of issues including family experiences and circumstances, child health and development, parenting styles and support, use of childcare and more.

What are the key findings from the new reports?

'Parental service use and informal networks in the early years' finds that mothers living in disadvantaged circumstances are more reluctant to engage with services aimed at supporting parents with young children and are less likely to make use of such services. This 'low service use' was not always compensated for by strong informal support from family and friends.

'Changes in child cognitive ability in the pre-school years' finds that the gap in cognitive abilities between children from more and less advantaged social backgrounds found at age three persists at age five. The largest differences in ability are between children whose parents have higher and lower educational qualifications. Factors such as a rich home learning environment had a positive influence on the improvement of cognitive ability in the pre-school period.

'Parenting and children's health' finds that child health and health behaviours are less favourable in families experiencing adversity. Good parenting was found to have a positive association with child health, suggesting that parenting support might contribute to reducing health inequalities but is likely to form only part of the solution.

'Change in early childhood and the impact of significant events' reports that during the first five years of their lives, around one in ten children in Scotland experiences their parents separating, with rates being highest in the first two years after the child's birth. Separation increased the likelihood of mothers experiencing poor mental health and low income, which in turn can have an impact on child outcomes.

More detail about each of the four new reports will be presented over the next four editions of the PAS newsletter. Thanks to PAS for this opportunity!

For more information about GUS or to download the research reports and summaries please visit the study website


GUS is funded by the Scottish Government and is carried out by the Scottish Centre for Social Research in collaboration with the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh and the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow.