The COORDINATE working group on harmonisation, consisting of members of GESIS in Cologne and Manchester University, has two primary missions: to increase the awareness within the research community of the wealth of comparative and longitudinal child wellbeing data available in Europe and to provide tools for harmonising data for researchers to investigate the questions that are most interesting for policy stakeholders. We are doing this in an open and transparent manner that allows for people from different backgrounds including academics, journalists, policy analysts and others, to access data and contribute to the public understanding of contemporary child wellbeing across Europe.
We started by compiling a list of longitudinal international datasets that directly survey children or their families about their wellbeing or the wellbeing of the children in their family, with a preference for surveys that directly ask children about aspects related to their personal wellbeing. Once the datasets and measures were identified, we compiled the related metadata in a database.
In order to provide a more convenient overview of the variables, we divided the core survey items into five categories based on a framework developed by the OECD:
· Material wellbeing
· Family and environment
· Risk behaviour and lifestyle
· Subjective wellbeing
This gives the structure of the database of child wellbeing measures that we developed. Essentially, we put information about the central features of each measure into a table for each survey that we had included in our collection. For example, under the category of material wellbeing, we identified concerns about family income as a core child wellbeing variable. One of the surveysthat asks children about this is the “Children’s Worlds”. We present the variable and metadata information in a tabular format as shown in the screenshot below. This information is included for each dataset that has an item for financial concerns in the family. When researchers need more information about a variable and data source, there is a companion spreadsheet that expands on the information in the table. The additional information includes the exact response categories and labels as well as the variable name in the dataset. Also included is a link to the documentation from the original source that provides even more information on the data.
Our intention is to give researchers the information they need to make their own decisions about which variables are equivalent and comparable and therefore harmonisable. This leads to the second task that we want to achieve with the database: Providing tools to help researchers harmonise child wellbeing data from different data sources. We do this by providing commented examples using the freely available statistical software R. The code we present in the database takes users through the steps from importing and cleaning data to making informed harmonisation decisions, creating a crosswalk table to analyse the comparability of measures from different data sources and finally to the harmonisation and compilation of a harmonised measure that can be integrated into the researcher’s analysis.
We are positive that this will be a useful tool for potential child wellbeing research! The link to the database webpages will be published on the official COORDINATE webpage in January.