Frequently asked questions

 

Why have I been chosen to take part?

How families are selected

To visit every family would take too long and be too costly, so we selected a number of families at random from amongst those who received Child Benefit. We took special care to ensure that, taken together, all the families and children we have chosen are representative of all families and children of a certain age living in Scotland. The study looks at the experiences of children and their families in all areas of Scotland.

Who has taken part in the study so far

  • We started in 2005 with two groups of children: around 5,000 babies born between June 2004 and May 2005, and around 3,000 children aged just under three years old (born between June 2002 and May 2003).
  • In 2010/11, we selected a further group of around 6000 babies born between March 2010 and February 2011.
  • Most recently, in 2017 we selected another group of around 1,500 children born between June 2004 and May 2005, who were aged around 13. These children have been invited to take part in interviews alongside the group of children the same age who were recruited to the study back in 2005.

In total, around 15,000 children from all over the country have taken part in Growing Up in Scotland (GUS). Each selected child and family is an important part of the overall picture. Therefore, if a family cannot take part or stops taking part, for any reason, they cannot be replaced by another family.
You might find that some of your neighbours have been invited to take part, or they might already be involved in the study. This is because we have randomly selected certain areas of the country, including your neighbourhood. These areas are right across the country, so that when all interviews have finished, we will have information from people all over Scotland, in the full range of different neighbourhoods.

Why is the study important?

GUS provides information on a wide range of topics which are relevant to the lives of children, young people and their families. These topics include:

  • Child health, development and wellbeing
  • Education and school
  • Child activities and behaviours
  • Parenting and family life
  • Parental health and activities
  • Childcare and issues relating to work/life balance
  • Access to, awareness of and use of services

The results from the study inform several departments across the Scottish Government of the issues families in Scotland are facing today. Further, they help them to develop policies to address these issues. The results also help to check whether policies are working well and, if not, how they can be improved.

One of the most important things about GUS is that it is uniquely Scottish. A lot of studies look at the UK as a whole (you can read more on the CLOSER website). GUS, on the other hand, only includes children and families who are living in Scotland.

By providing us with information about your views and circumstances, you are helping the government and others to act and make improvements for the people who most need them. So by taking part you will be doing a favour for the whole of society and – possibly – for families in similar circumstances to your own, all over Scotland. 

GUS provides information to assist the Scottish Ministers to fulfil their duties under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.   

The study helps to understand what can help protect and promote the wellbeing of children and young people across a wide range of areas, and helps to promote awareness and understanding of the rights of children and young people. The study also helps to assess how effective government policies are in achieving these objectives.

Evidence provided by GUS also supports Scottish Ministers in their duties to promote the improvement of the physical and mental health of the people of Scotland. It also helps understand how to improve the experiences and outcomes for children in the education system and reduce educational inequalities.

Who uses the data and findings?

Policy makers at the Scottish Government use findings from the study to plan services in the future. Therefore, you have a real chance to make a difference to policies affecting children, young people and families in Scotland! The results of the study will enable the government to develop policies to address any issues raised , to check whether policies are working well, and to improve them where necessary. In this way, taking part is a chance to make your views count, and – potentially – to make a difference to policies affecting children and young people growing up in Scotland. Researchers in universities, local government and charities can also apply to access the survey data (i.e. your answers to the survey questions, but no information that can identify you or your family). Applications are reviewed by the Scottish Government and strict criteria are used to determine who can access the data. This is done to ensure confidentiality, and that the data is used for non-commercial research purposes only. By allowing other researchers to use the data we hope to ensure that the most is made of all the information you and your family, and all the other families taking part in GUS, have given us. It also means that people with a wide range of perspectives on Scottish society can offer their own interpretations of the data.
A number of people and organisations also use the findings that are published in the study reports – most of these are available to access for free from the website.

Click here to find out who has been using findings from the study

What does taking part in the study involve?

This year’s interview

An interviewer from ScotCen Social Research will get in touch with you to arrange an interview. We will always send you a letter to let you know when it is time for your next interview.
The interview will take place at your home at a time convenient to you. The interview will last around 1.5 hours. Taking part is very straightforward and the interviewer will be able to answer any questions you may have about the interview or the overall process.
The interviewer will ask some questions of both a parent/carer and the young person, and enter the answers into their laptop. There will also be some questions to answer yourself on the laptop, if you’re happy to do so.
This year, your interviewer will also ask to take the young person’s height and weight measurement, and do some short language exercises with them. As always, you don’t have to do any elements you don’t want to do – just tell the interviewer.
In addition, if the parent/carer being interviewed has a partner who also lives in the household, we would like him or her to complete a short paper questionnaire. Your interviewer will send this in advance of the interview. Once completed, this questionnaire should be inserted into the sealable envelope provided and given to the interviewer when he or she comes to visit.
If you haven’t received a questionnaire but think you should have, please talk to your interviewer who will give you a copy.

Being part of a longitudinal study

An important part of GUS is that it is ‘longitudinal’. This means that we follow every family every few years to see how people’s circumstances change. This makes the study unique as it provides the government with information on how family life is changing over time and the effect that different policies appear to be having on people’s lives.
This makes it especially important that the families we have selected continue to take part also after the first interview. If families are unable to take part, we lose important information on whether their circumstances have gotten better or worse, or whether they feel local services have improved. As a result, the government will have less information about how its policies are working for everyone.

Who is carrying out the study?

The study is being carried out by ScotCen Social Research on behalf of the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government employs researchers who use GUS data to make sure policy makers are fully informed of what life in Scotland is really like for children and young people and their families. We also work in collaboration with a number of academic researchers who are experts in research on children, young people and families.
ScotCen Social Research is part of NatCen Social Research, Britain’s largest independent, non-profit social research institute. We carry out many important research studies for the Scottish Government, UK government departments, research councils, voluntary organisations and charitable foundations. All of our interviewers abide by a code of conduct and register with the local police of the area in which they are interviewing. This means the police are aware our interviewers are working locally.
Read more about ScotCen Social Research.

What happens to the information I give, and what are my rights?

Is the study confidential?

Yes – your answers will be treated in strict confidence and with full respect for your privacy, in accordance with data protection legislation.
We take great care to protect the confidentiality of the information you give us. The results from the study will never be in a form that can reveal your or your family’s identity and will only be used for research purposes. When we report the results from the study, we look at patterns of responses across the population as a whole – not at the responses of individual people. No information will be released that could identify any individuals or families.
Social research projects, like GUS, are governed by strict guidelines and codes of conduct which protect your identity and the answers you give. For example, we are not allowed to say to anyone whether you have taken part. Because you are protected in this way, there is no need to worry about the answers you give; we will never pass your answers on to anyone in such a way that you can be identified.

What kinds of information do you collect?

There are two types of information collected in GUS:

  • Survey data: This contains your answers to the survey questions but does not include any information that identifies individual children, parents or families, such as your name, address, or date of birth.
  • Contact information: We ask families who take part in the study to let us know their phone number and email address so that we can get in touch with them when it is time for their next interview. These details, and families’ names and addresses, are stored separately from the survey data.

These two types of data are held separately to ensure that it is not possible to see who gave which answers:

  • ScotCen Social Research, who is contracted by the Scottish Government to undertake the study, holds both types of data. They have strict procedures for how each type of data are stored and handled. 
  • The Scottish Government and the UK Data Service hold copies of the survey datasets, but not any information that can identify individuals or families who take part. Approved researchers – for example, researchers working in universities – can apply to use the survey data for their research projects.

Do you share my information with others?

Occasionally we need to share your contact information with a small number of specially selected and approved agencies where it is necessary to carry out the contractual requirements of the study. This is limited to companies who provide printing and mailing services – i.e. who print documents for the study and send letters on our behalf – and companies who provide ‘data capture’ services – i.e. who scan any paper questionnaires and convert the information into an electronic format.
Unlike other surveys that you may have taken part in, the information you provide is not used to help companies sell their products or for marketing. Rather, it is used to help the government understand life in Scotland and to design policies that aim to help people.
You can also be assured that taking part in the study will not lead to junk mail or any other unwanted contact. The research team will send you a thank you letter for taking part and a newsletter to let you know what’s happening on the study once a year. That’s it!

How long is my information stored for?

All survey responses are stored securely and confidentially in line with data protection legislation. The information you give us is only used for research purposes.
The survey datasets (which hold the answers you have given to the survey questions, but no details that can identify individual children, parents or families) that is the anonymised answers you have given us over the years,- are held by the Scottish Government and the UK Data Service. Retention of the data (i.e. the length of time they will be holding the data) is reviewed regularly to ensure that it is still appropriate.
Both survey datasets and contact information for participating families will be stored securely by ScotCen Social Research for as long as it holds the contract to conduct the study. 

What rights do I have over how my information is processed and stored?

Data protection legislation gives rights to individuals in relation to the personal data that organisations hold about them. This includes information collected as part of GUS. You have the right to receive information about how your data is used. You have the right to be confident that when we ask for, hold or share your personal data, we will do so responsibly and in accordance with data protection legislation. For example, you have the right to prevent processing of your information for direct marketing purposes and to claim compensation for any damages caused by a breach of the legislation.
Further details about your rights, the Scottish Government’s responsibilities in handling your data and how to raise concerns about the way your data is being processed is available on this page.

What happens if I agree to be contacted about further research?

In the future, the Scottish Government or another organisation may want to conduct further research about children and young people and their families. If you are willing and give us your consent, your details (i.e. your name, contact details, and relevant answers you have given during the interview that allow us to establish if you are eligible for the study) will be passed on to the Scottish Government or other research agencies, with the permission of the Scottish Government. This information will be used to contact you and invite you to participate in the study. You will then be free to refuse if you do not want to take part.
This information will only be shared for research carried out by reputable research organisations. We will contact you with further information before passing your details over.
Any information passed to any other organisation will be treated in accordance with data protection legislation and will not be used for any purposes other than further research about children and young people and their families. Your details will not be passed on for commercial purposes.
Your confidentiality will always be protected in the publication of any results.
If you wish to withdraw this permission, please email us at gus@scotcen.org.uk or write to the GUS team at ScotCen Social Research, Scotiabank House, 6 South Charlotte Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4AW.

Do I have to take part?

No. Participation in GUS is entirely voluntary. This means that it is up to you whether you want to participate, and whether you are happy to answer all the questions, and take part in all the activities. If there are any activities you do not wish to take part in, or any questions you don’t want to answer, just tell the interviewer. We won’t ask you why. We will always contact you to let you know your next interview is coming up.
Most families taking part in GUS tell us that they really enjoy the interview, and we hope you will too. Each and every family who has been selected to take part in GUS is important for the study, and the study can only continue as long as families like yours continue to take part – because you have taken part before, we cannot replace you and your family with anyone else. The study’s success to date is entirely down to the continued commitment of families like yours, and we hope you will continue to take part. We understand that families are busy and that it can be difficult to find time to do the interview – if this is a problem, please speak to your interviewer who will be able to arrange a time that suits you and your family.

What if I don’t want to be contacted about the study anymore?

We very much hope that you enjoy taking part and will continue to do so in the future. However, your participation in the study is entirely voluntary and you can withdraw at any time, without telling us why.
If you do not want us to contact you about taking part in the study anymore, please email us at gus@scotcen.org.uk, write to us at ScotCen Social Research, Scotiabank House, 6 South Charlotte Street, EH2 4AW. You can also call us on 0800 652 2704.

What if I change my mind after the interview?

If you decide in the days following the interview that you do not want your information to be processed, please let us know as soon as possible by emailing gus@scotcen.org.uk or calling us for free on 0800 652 2704. In these cases we may be able to remove individual responses.
However, in line with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), withdrawing your answers at a later date (for example, months or years after the interview has taken place) is not possible. This is because withdrawing the answers at this time would impair the ability to analyse the results in a robust and consistent manner, and as such would impair the functionality of the study.

What is data linkage?

Data linkage is the process of adding together different types of information about individuals from different sources. To improve the information we hold on GUS, with the permission of the parent/carer, we link your survey answers with selected administrative data. Administrative data is information which is routinely held by your local authority or other public bodies such as the NHS. This might include, for example, information about school attendance or dental health.
‘Linking’ the information you give us in the interview with this other information helps us build a more complete picture of the child’s life, and makes the information you share even more useful.
To take part in the study you do not have to give permission to data linkage. This is your choice and will not otherwise affect your participation.
If you have previously given consent to have your survey answers linked to administrative data and no longer wish for that to happen then you can let us know by emailing gus@scotcen.org.uk or calling us for free on 0800 652 2704. We will then prevent any further linkage. However, as noted above, we cannot withdraw your data from existing datasets which are already being used for analysis. This is because withdrawing the information would limit the ability to analyse the results in a robust and consistent manner, and this would have a negative impact on the functionality of the study.

You can find out more information about data linkage by watching this animation:

What types of data will you be linking to?

Health records

The National Health Service (NHS) holds routine medical and other health records on all patients who use their services. To increase the value of the data you provide we have asked for permission to link your GUS survey answers to the child’s NHS health records. We have also asked for permission to link to maternity records for the child’s biological mother. These details are held by the Information Services Division (ISD) of NHS Scotland.
If the parent/carer has given permission for us to do so, your survey answers are linked to the child’s (and, where applicable, the biological mother’s) NHS health records in relation to:

  • hospital attendance (both inpatient and outpatient)
  • A&E attendance
  • immunisations (vaccinations)
  • pre-school and primary school health checks
  • dental health
  • the child’s birth
  • maternity records

Education records

The Scottish Exchange of Educational Data (ScotXed), part of the Scottish Government’s Education Directorate, hold records for all children attending state schools in Scotland. To increase the value of the data you provide we have also asked permission to link your GUS survey answers to the child’s education records.
These records hold information both for individual pupils and for the whole school. If the parent/carer has given permission for us to do so, your GUS answers will be linked to the child’s education records in relation to:

  • attendance and absences
  • attainment (e.g. exam results)
  • subjects taught and classroom set-up (e.g. the number of teachers)
  • additional support needs and measures in place
  • free school meal eligibility
  • level of English/Gaelic

What if I move home between interviews or my contact details change?

Please complete this change of details form or email us at gus@scotcen.org.uk.

I’m in the GUS ‘Pilot’ sample, what does this mean?

Just like most large research studies, ahead of each year’s interviews we try out the survey with a small number of participating families. This is done to ensure that everything runs smoothly. It helps the research team identify and prevent issues that could negatively affect the results of the study if encountered later on. The families involved are interviewed before most other participating families and are sometimes referred to as the ‘pilot’ sample.
Many of the families in the GUS ‘pilot’ sample have taken part in the study since the beginning, while others have joined at later stages. Irrespective of when they joined, these families play a hugely important role in enabling and supporting the running of the study. The information they provide is used to identify any issues with questions, documents or procedures ahead of each round of interviews with the remaining families. As such, these families play a crucial role in assuring the quality of the study.
The information you give us is treated confidentially and securely in accordance with data protection legislation, just like the information obtained from all the other families taking part in GUS, and your rights in relation to the processing of your data are the same. Unlike the survey data collected from the remaining families taking part in GUS, the information collected from families in the ‘pilot’ sample is not made available for research to anyone outside the GUS team at ScotCen and Scottish Government.
If you have any questions about the ‘pilot’ sample or wish to find out if you are part of it, please get in touch by emailing us on gus@scotcen.org.uk or call us for free on 0800 652 2704.

How to contact us

If you have a question which is not answered here, please contact us by emailing gus@scotcen.org.uk or by calling us for free on 0800 652 2704.You can also write to the GUS team at ScotCen Social Research, Scotiabank House, 6 South Charlotte Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4AW.

If you would like further information regarding how your information is used, please contact Scottish Government GUS research team at GUS@gov.scot or write to Education Analytical Services, Area 2A-North, Victoria Quay, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ
You can also contact the Scottish Government’s Data Protection Officer at DataProtectionOfficer@gov.scot or write to: Data Protection Officer, Victoria Quay, Commercial Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ.

Additionally, if at any point you are unhappy with any aspect of your involvement in the study, you can lodge a complaint using these details. If we’re not able to resolve your complaint, you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office, whose details can be found at www.ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/.

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