The project is an infinite-life multi-wave cohort study, which has thus far been granted ARC-Discovery Project funding for seven waves of research. Funding was granted for Wave 1 for the period 2005-2007 (DP0557667); Waves 2 and 3 for the period 2008-2011 (DP0878781); and Waves 4 and 5 for the period 2013-2015 (DP130101490). Most recently, funding for Waves 6 and 7 was granted for the period 2016-2019 (DP160100360).
This is a longitudinal project which surveys this same cohort of individuals in 2-3 year intervals, in order to assess major theoretical arguments about how attitudes, values, plans, and aspirations developed during adolescence impact on employment, education, and social outcomes in early adulthood. In each successive wave of research, we use qualitative and quantitative methods to provide rigorous analyses of stability and change in young people’s emerging attitudes, values, and life pathways, and in-depth analyses of the social discourses they use to make sense of their lives.
Wave 1 (2006)
The baseline Wave 1 cohort consists of 7,031 high school students who were in their first year of high school in 2006. They were all in Year 8 and were aged 12/13 years old).
The sample was drawn from the 457 secondary schools in the state of Queensland, Australia. Permission to administer surveys was refused for 71 schools by the relevant governing authorities. Nevertheless, the school sample was representative of Queensland schools by sector and region and the school response rate was 55% (i.e. 213 of the 386 schools contacted participated in the study). The response rate for students within those schools averaged 34%.
The Wave 1 ‘Our Lives’ sample was reasonably representative of Indigenous students and students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation was 4 percent (n = 274). Students who were born overseas in an English-speaking background country participated at 6 percent (n = 400) and students who were born overseas in a non-English-speaking background country participated at 4 percent (n = 271). Surveys were collected using a multi-mode administration, involving Internet surveys and surveys administered in the classroom. The questionnaire included questions on the attitudes, beliefs, values, orientations and behaviours of Queensland secondary students and their socio-demographic background.
Wave 2 (2008)
The first follow-up wave of data collection occurred in 2008 when the original cohort was in Year 10 (aged 14/15 years old). Survey responses were received from 3,649 of the respondents who participated in the first wave, which was a retention rate of 58%. Participants were contacted directly using contact details they provided at the first wave, and the survey was conducted in both online and hard copy format.
Wave 3 (2010)
Wave 3 of the Our Lives project took place in 2010 when participants were in Year 12 and aged 16/17 years old. Efforts were made to recruit all Our Lives respondents regardless of whether or not they participated in Wave 2. Overall, survey responses were received from 58% (n=3,209) of the original Wave 1 cohort. In addition to the multi-mode approach used in previous waves, the data collection for Wave 3 included a final stage of Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) in order to maximise the response.
Wave 4 (2013)
Wave 4 of the Our Lives project took place in 2013 when the cohort members were aged 19/20 years old. This was the first follow-up survey since the cohort finished high school. Efforts were made to recruit all respondents regardless of whether or not they participated in Wave 3. Overall, survey responses were received from 41% (n=2,208) of the original Wave 1 cohort for whom valid contact information was available. Data collection was conducted via online survey and CATI.
Wave 5 (2015)
Wave 5 of the Our Lives project took place in 2015, approximately five years after participants left secondary school. At this time, they were aged 21/22 years old. Data collection was conducted via online survey (79%) and CATI (21%). For the main fieldwork component, an attempt was made to contact all participants who had participated in more than one survey wave and who had valid contact information (n=3,708). Overall, survey responses were received from 57% of this group (n=2,097). A post-fieldwork tracking activity was able re-establish contact with 61 previously “lost” cohort members, increasing the final Wave 5 sample size to 2,158 respondents.
Wave 6 (2017)
Wave 6 of the Our Lives project was completed in 2017, which was around seven years since the sample completed high school. The cohort was aged 23/24 years old. As in Waves 4 and 5, data collection was conducted via online survey (82%) and CATI (18%). The target sample for Wave 6 included all previous respondents with valid contact information (n=3,512). At the conclusion of the data collection period, survey responses were received by 58% of the target sample (n=2,030). This final total represented 29% of the original Wave 1 sample and was only 6% lower than the Wave 4 sample achieved four years earlier.
Wave 7 (2019)
Wave 7 of the Our Lives project was conducted in 2019, when the Our Lives cohort was aged 25/26 years old (nine years after leaving high school). Data collection was predominantly undertaken online (88%) whilst a minority completed via CATI (12%). The main target sample consisted of 2,479 Our Lives cohort members who had completed either of the past two waves (Waves 5 or 6). Among this main group, 1,850 surveys were completed (75% of the main target sample). Two additional activities were also undertaken to boost survey outcomes. First, efforts were made to re-engage longer term inactive cohort members, yielding an additional 78 completions from participants who had not completed a survey wave since at least Wave 4. Secondly, a top-up replacement sample was introduced (n=114), where new respondents were recruited on the basis that they had been sampled but not recruited into the study in Wave 1 (i.e. they had attended Grade 8 in a QLD secondary or primary/secondary school in 2006). At the end of fieldwork, the final Wave 7 sample size was 2,042 respondents from across all these groups, including 1,928 original cohort members and 114 top-up respondents.
Supplementary COVID-19 Mini-Survey (2020)
In June 2020, approximately 6 months after the completion of Wave 7, a supplementary survey was undertaken to examine the immediate implications of COVID-19 for the Our Lives cohort since they were recently surveyed. The cohort was aged around 26/27 at the time of the survey. To avoid sample burden/fatigue, the length of the survey (10 minutes) and fieldwork period (1 month) were considerably shorter than for the regular survey fieldwork conducted every two years. The survey was also conducted online only. By the conclusion of this fieldwork, 1,042 cohort members completed the survey (consisting of predominantly Wave 7 survey completers).
Wave 8 (2021)
Wave 8 of the Our Lives study was conducted between August and December 2021, with the cohort aged 27/28 years at the time of data collection. The target sample consisted of cohort members who had completed at least one survey since Wave 5 and for whom valid contact details remained on file. The majority of respondents completed the survey online (95%) while a small percentage completed it via CATI (5%). In total, 1,663 cohort members completed the Wave 8 survey.
To explore certain key themes from the survey in greater detail, qualitative interviews are routinely conducted with Our Lives respondents. Since 2009 over 200 interviews have been conducted on such areas as young people’s career aspirations; their expectations of work, marriage, and family life; their financial literacy; their use of new technologies and the internet; and their political attitudes and first experiences of the electoral process.
As part of the broader project, a qualitative longitudinal research study is also underway which follows 28 participants. This involves conducting in depth-interviews with the same individuals at different points in time to observe consistency and change in those individual. We have been speaking to them about their aspirations and experiences in the domains of romantic relationships, family formation, education, career, and housing.
Our Lives survey instruments can be found here.
Methodological reports relating to each wave of data collection can be found here.
Data from Waves 1- 7 of the Our Lives project can be accessed through the Australian Data Archive by clicking here.