The 2015 Middle Childhood Survey (MCS) of mental health and well-being at age 11 years in an Australian population cohort
Purpose The Middle Childhood Survey (MCS) was designed as a computerised self-report assessment of children’s mental health and well-being at approximately 11 years of age, conducted with a population cohort of 87 026 children being studied longitudinally within the New South Wales (NSW) Child Development Study. Participants School Principals provided written consent for teachers to administer the MCS in class to year 6 students at 829 NSW schools (35.0% of eligible schools). Parent or child opt-outs from participation were received for 4.3% of children, and MCS data obtained from 27 808 children (mean age 11.5 years, SD 0.5; 49.5% female), representing 85.9% of students at participating schools. Findings to date Demographic characteristics of participating schools and children are representative of the NSW population. Children completed items measuring Social Integration, Prosocial Behaviour, Peer Relationship Problems, Supportive Relationships (at Home, School and in the Community), Empathy, Emotional Symptoms, Conduct Problems, Aggression, Attention, Inhibitory Control, Hyperactivity-Inattention, Total Difficulties (internalising and externalising psychopathology), Perceptual Sensitivity, Psychotic-Like Experiences, Personality, Self-esteem, Daytime Sleepiness and Connection to Nature. Distributions of responses on each item and construct demarcate competencies and vulnerabilities within the population: most children report mental health and well-being, but the population distribution spanned the full range of possible scores on every construct. Future plans Multiagency, intergenerational linkage of the MCS data with health, education, child protection, justice and early childhood development records took place late in 2016. Linked data were used to elucidate patterns of risk and protection across early and middle child development, and these data will provide a foundation for future record linkages in the cohort that will track mental and physical health, social and educational/occupational outcomes into adolescence and early adulthood.