Session 2 abstracts

Welcome to session 2 on day 1 (11:40 – 12:40)




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Track 1 - Symposium: Modelling the associations between technology use and adolescent wellbeing

Windows of developmental sensitivity to social media
Studies: Millennium Cohort Study and Understanding Society

Amy Orben, University of Cambridge

The relationship between social media use and life satisfaction changes across development, and cohort studies are ideal for studying such trends. Our analyses of both the Millennium Cohort Study and Understanding Society datasets, comprising 84,011 participants (aged 10-80), find that the cross-sectional relationship between self-reported social media use and life satisfaction is most negative in adolescents. Longitudinal analyses in Understanding Society suggest distinct developmental windows of sensitivity to social media in adolescence, wherein social media use predicts subsequent changes in life satisfaction. These windows occur at different ages for males (14–15 and 19) and females (11–13 and 19).

Examining longitudinal associations between social media use and mental ill-health among young people
Study: Millennium Cohort Study

Baowen Xue, University College London

Longitudinal data on 12,114 participants from the Millennium Cohort Study on social media use, depressive symptoms, self-harm and early life risk factors were used. We found little support for the existence of cyclical relationships between social media use and mental health. Dose-response associations were seen in the direction of mental health to social media, but not for social media to mental health. Changes in social media use and changes in mental health were not associated with each other. We found no evidence to suggest that either social media use or mental health interacted with pre-existing risk for mental ill health.

Digital access constraints predict worse mental health among adolescents during COVID-19
Study: Understanding Society

Tom Metherell, University College London

The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing social restrictions disrupted young people’s social interactions and necessitated online learning. Therefore, we hypothesised that digitally excluded young people would demonstrate greater deterioration in their mental health than their digitally connected peers during this time. Here I will present the results of our analysis of our data collected from 10–15-year-old participants in Understanding Society, a representative panel study of UK households. We used structural equation modelling to compare the mental health trajectories of adolescents with digital access to those without, finding a significant difference between the two groups.

A data-driven approach to understanding social media addiction in adolescence
Study: Millennium Cohort Study

Georgia Turner, University of Cambridge

There is much concern about putative social media addiction (SMA). However, there is strikingly little consensus on what SMA actually is. Here, we use a data-driven clustering approach to identify behavioural-emotional characteristics associated with self-reported SMA among UK adolescents aged 16-18, using the Millennium Cohort Study. We investigate: (1) How prevalent is self-reported SMA? (2) Do people with high self-reported SMA have different behavioural-emotional characteristics from those with low self-reported SMA? (3) Are there distinct behavioural-emotional subtypes of high self-reported SMA? Our analyses are ongoing, but we hope to contribute to an empirically-grounded definition of SMA, ultimately informing individualised interventions.


Track 2 - Early childhood, education

Effects of Teacher Gender on Students’ Socio-Emotional Skills Development

Study: Millennium Cohort Study

Sonkurt Sen, University of Bonn

Co-authors: Greta Morando

Socio-emotional skills are shown to be important for many early and later life outcomes, yet, the evidence on how these skills are shaped within the classroom is limited. In this paper, using nationally representative survey data from England, we study how teacher gender affects students’ socio-emotional skills. In order to study the causal effects, we implement a within-observation fixed effects model. Our results show that male teachers have a positive effect on students’ socio-emotional skills, mainly on prosociality and these positive effects are concentrated on male students. Our analysis provides some evidence on the mechanism of these effects.

Explaining the association between parental mental health and early childhood development: the role of the home learning environment
Study: Millennium Cohort Study

Jessica van de Grint, University of Cambridge

Co-authors: Pasco Fearon, Chloe Austerberry, Laurel Fish and Livia Bernardi

Key studies such as EPPSE and SEED provide support for the importance of the role of the home learning environment (HLE; which comprises learning and play activities in the home) during childhood. HLE is an important predictor for early childhood development and longer-term outcomes; it is therefore relevant to examine which parent-related factors are driving differences in HLE. At the same time, poorer parental mental health has been linked to poorer early childhood development using MCS data, accordingly the role of the HLE in this relation has been explored.

Meritocracy for the few: unequal educational outcomes for children with similar early childhood vocabulary but different socio-economic circumstances
Study: Millennium Cohort Study

Emma Thornton, University of Manchester

Co-authors: Praveetha Patalay, Danielle Matthews and Colin Bannard

Using MCS data, we examined the importance of age 5 vocabulary for educational attainment around age 16 in different socioeconomic groups (socioeconomic circumstance; SEC). Vocabulary predicted educational attainment, after adjusting for SEC and caregiver vocabulary. Further, SEC moderated the relation: the impact of better vocabulary was greater in the middle SEC groups compared to the highest SEC group, and in the lowest SEC group, educational attainment was poor, regardless of vocabulary. Improving vocabulary early in childhood may improve education outcomes, but the advantage provided by good vocabulary is different across the socioeconomic groups, which has important implications for social mobility.

Academies’ impact on pupils: Looking beyond exams
Study: Millennium Cohort Study

Nuno da Costa Braz, University College London


Academies are state-funded schools that are managed outside of Local Authority control and enjoy greater autonomy. While the literature focuses on national exams, this work evaluates the impact of academy conversion on problem-solving skills, mental health, and social skills. Using the Millennium Cohort Study in a difference in differences framework, a focus is placed on pupils who are already attending the school prior to academy conversion. The overall impact of academy attendance is non-significant, but there are marked differences between sponsor-led and converter academies. Converter academies significantly raise the decision-making skills of their pupils and sponsor-led academies their pupils’ self-esteem.

Track 3 - Child development

Social factors associated with different measures of cognitive development in 3-4 year olds
Study: ELFE

Bertrand Geay, Paris 8 University Vincennes-Saint-Denis

Behnaz Khosravi, University of Picardie Jules Verne / National Institute for Demographic Studies

The scale of social inequalities in school performance from kindergarten onwards has been an issue in the sociology of education for several decades, encouraging to further analyze the mechanisms of early production of differentials in the different domains of cognitive development.

Do children from different backgrounds develop cognitive abilities such as language skills, numerical skills and non-verbal inductive reasoning in different ways? If so, are these skills associated with distinct styles of care, stimulation and leisure practices that stimulate or limit different cognitive abilities in young children?

This paper is based on three different measures taken during the ELFE study.

Adolescents’ pre-sleep waking activities and sleep duration: analysis of daily time-use diaries in the Millennium Cohort Study
Study: Millennium Cohort Study

Michael Osei Mireku, University of Lincoln

Fewer adolescents are meeting the daily sleep duration recommendations. The purpose of this study was to investigate the distribution of time on waking activities in the 5 hours preceding sleep time, and to establish the relationships between these waking activities and the risk of short or excessive sleep among adolescents. Preliminary results show that the proportion of time adolescents spent on recreational digital media increased from 40% during 5 hours before sleep to 50% in the hour before sleep. While recreational digital media use accounted for most of the pre-sleep time, it did not account for shorter sleep.

Changes over time in home language: exploring family and individual level predictors
Study: Millennium Cohort Study

Elina Kilpi-Jakonen, University of Turku, Finland

Co-authors: Jenni Alisaari and Achyut Gautam

We analyse the languages used in foreign-language ethnic minority families over time, and the family and child level factors that influence it, in order to gain a fuller understanding of the processes of language shift and language maintenance. We use the MCS sweeps 1–7 to examine the languages used at home and changes therein until the age of 17. We use longitudinal analysis methods to explore how time-constant factors (such as ethnicity, parental level of education, and child’s gender and birth order) and time-varying factors (such as parental employment, family structure, and parenting) influence language use at home.

The changing social worlds of nine-year-olds: comparing two cohorts of the Growing Up in Ireland study
Study: Growing Up in Ireland

Emer Smyth, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI)

This paper takes advantage of the two-cohort design of the Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) study to compare the experiences of nine-year-olds born a decade apart and surveyed in 2007/08 (Cohort ’98) and 2017/18 (Cohort ’08) respectively. The paper documents change in children’s day-to-day activities, drawing on survey and time-use data, providing rich insights into their lives against a backdrop of rapid societal transformation. The analyses look not only at overall change in the experiences of nine-year-olds but also examine whether any changes are due to the shifting profile of their families over time.

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