9. Some Findings from the study

This is a unique study of two linked groups of participants with both mothers and their children followed for nearly 40 years. A number of the research papers combine data obtained from mothers and their children in a single paper.

Poverty/Low Income

Poverty and/or socioeconomic disadvantage are closely linked to life adversities (such as family marital breakdown, unemployment). The study has tracked the experience of poverty over a 21-year period and finds that most families experiences occasional periods of poverty with only a small proportion experiencing persistent poverty. Family poverty and socioeconomic disadvantage predict a wide range of child developmental, mental and physical health outcomes in early and late childhood, the adolescent period and young adulthood. Children born into poverty do not have an equal start to life and there is a need for a wide range of policies to redress this for the children involved.

Mental Illness

This study has provided the opportunity to track mental illness as mothers and their children are followed-up over a 30-year period. While many children do experience mental illness over their early life course, most children with experiences of mental illness do not go on to experience a diagnosable mental disorder. Tracking mothers over 30-years the study has found that about 10% of mothers experience recurrent and persistent episodes of depression, and a small proportion experience occasional episodes of depression. The majority of mothers remain free of any episodes of major depression. Maternal mental health has an impact not only on the mothers as they age but also impacts on the health and development of their children.

Substance use and abuse

This study has found high rates of substance use and misuse reported by children. For example, about 50% of children in the study report having used cannabis by the time they reach young adulthood. The use of cannabis, ecstasy and amphetamines is relatively common but the majority of young people who use drugs do not use persistently and do not become dependent on drugs. Many young adults do use alcohol in a risky manner and the health consequences of their use of alcohol may have greater consequences than their use of illicit drugs. Most young adults reduce or stop using illicit substances by their mid 20s and only a very small minority remain persistent or dependent users by age 30.

It is also important to note that many mothers also use a wide range of licit and illicit substances as they enter their 60s. There is some evidence that, for mothers, substance use increases as they age.

Child Maltreatment: Abuse and Neglect

This study has had continuing focus on experiences in early childhood and their impact on adult health and wellbeing. Adversities experienced in early childhood can include physical abuse and neglect. Childhood maltreatment has been defined and measured in various ways. In this study we have compared State Government protection agency reports of childhood maltreatment with children's reports of maltreatment recall by the child when they were an adult. First, we find that agency and child self-reports of maltreatment do not correspond. Children who are identified by the Department of Child Safety as maltreated deny experiencing maltreatment. Further, children who report experiencing maltreatment have not been identified by the Department.

In a series of papers, the study points to a wide range of intellectual, emotional and physical health consequences of early childhood experiences of maltreatment.

Cardiovascular/Cardiometabolic Health and Obesity

A concern with cardiovascular disease is evident in MUSP research using both the birth and mother groups. Data on body mass index (BMI), food intake and diet, exercise and sedentary activities has been collected at a number of the follow-up phases. There has also been a concern with self-perceptions of body image and the extent to which BMI may influence self-perceptions of physical appearance. At the 30-year follow-up of the birth cohort (the children of the study), blood samples have been taken and these used to identify genetic markers of mental illness and biological changes associated with early life course evidence of cardiovascular disease.