The Youth in Focus Project

youth in focus

The Youth in Focus project is about the experiences of young people in Australia. The aim is to get a more accurate picture of how well young people are doing and how they achieve economic and social independence. The project looks at young people from a wide range of different backgrounds and with different childhood experiences. The study is based on information provided by young people and their parents in a survey as well as information from Centrelink's administrative records.

The data will be analysed by a team of university researchers from Australia and overseas, and the findings will be published as research reports on this web site. The research will enhance our understanding of young people's situation in Australia, and it will help the government to develop more effective ways of providing services and assistance to those who need them.

Examples of the research questions being explored are:

  • When do young people move out of their parents' home and what is the main reason?
  • Why are young people whose parents have received income support themselves more likely to receive income support?
  • What is the relationship between young people's choice of education and their parents' education?
  • What is the relationship between young people's health and their childhood experiences?
  • When do young people become parents and start families of their own?
  • What is the financial situation of young parents?
  • What are young people's attitudes towards income support?
  • What do young people know about the welfare system?

Two features characterize the Youth in Focus project: the combination of information from both young people and from one of their parents, and the combination of survey data and administrative data. Information from both young people and their parents enables issues of intergenerational patterns to be addressed.

The Youth in Focus Survey is a new and exciting survey about the experiences of young people in Australia. It asks questions about family background, living arrangements, education, work, relationships, income, health, spare time, and aspirations and attitudes.

Two waves of the survey have been conducted. The first took place in 2006 and the second in 2008. Young people aged 18 and one of their parents or carers were interviewed. The parents and carers were interviewed once (in 2006), and the young people have been interviewed twice (in 2006 and 2008). In the first wave, we interviewed about 4000 young people and 3900 parents or carers. (Due to lack of funding, no further data collection is scheduled.)

The people who were invited to participate in the survey were randomly selected from Centrelink's records. Most young people have a Centrelink record because their parents received Family Assistance while they were growing up. Other young people, who receive Youth Allowance or some other form of social security payment, have a Centrelink record in their own right. It is estimated that about 85% of all young people in Australia have a Centrelink record.

Information for participants

Each wave of the survey is carried out over several months. Each selected person have received or will receive a letter from the Australian Government inviting them to participate in the survey, and interviews are carried out a few weeks later by Roy Morgan Research. Copies of the letters and the information brochure for all waves can be obtained by clicking on the links below. You need Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer to view or print these documents

Wave 1 letters and information brochure (sent out in July-August 2006):

Wave 2 letters (sent out in July-August 2008):

Note that the wording of some letters were slightly different, as Centrelink did not have a telephone number for everyone selected.

If you are a participant and have questions about the survey, you can contact Roy Morgan Research on the Youth in Focus hotline 1800 647 466 or e-mail


The surveys in 2006 and 2008 involved telephone interviews and (paper or web-based) self-complete questionnaires. The survey instruments have been transferred to paper-form:

Additional files

Please see the User Guide on the publications tab for further explanation.

The Youth in Focus project is a joint research project between a team of academic researchers and the Australian Government Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA). The research team consists of:

Ms Jocelyn Pech, Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (previously with the Department of Family and Community Services). (Left 2007.)

Associate Professor Chris Ryan, University of Melbourne, Australia. (Joined 2008.)

The project is supported by a five-year Linkage-Project grant from the Australian Research Council (ARC). The Australian National University (ANU) is the lead institution and has primary responsibility for coordinating the work of the research team and FaCSIA and for reporting to the ARC.

The collection of survey data has been sub-contracted to Roy Morgan Research, a private market research company.

This page contains discussion papers and factsheets.

Youth in Focus project discussion paper series

  1. User's Guide to the Youth in Focus Data version 1.0
    R.Breunig, D.Cobb-Clark, T.Gørgens, and A.Sartbayeva. September 2007
  2. The relationship between income support history characteristics and outcomes of Australian youth.
    D.Cobb-Clark and A.Sartbayeva December 2007
  3. Does the effect of incentive payments on survey response rates differ by income support history?
    J.Barón, R.Breunig, D.Cobb-Clark, T.Gørgens, and A.Sartbayeva. April 2008
  4. Exploring the Factors Associated with Youths' Educational Outcomes: The Role of Locus of Control and Parental Socio-Economic Background 
    J.Barón. December 2008
  5. Cultural Transmission of Work-Welfare Attitudes and the Intergenerational Correlation in Welfare Receipt
    J.Barón, D.Cobb-Clark, and N.Erkal. December 2008
  6. Taking Chances: The Effect of Growing Up on Welfare on the Risky Behavior of Young People
    D.Cobb-Clark, C.Ryan, and A.Sartbayeva. June 2009
  7. Childhood Family Circumstances and Young Adult People's Receipt of Income Support
    D.Cobb-Clark and T.Gørgens. November 2009.
  8. User's Guide to the Youth in Focus Data version 2.0
    R.Breunig, D.Cobb-Clark, T.Gørgens, C.Ryan, and A.Sartbayeva. December 2009
  9. The relationship between income-support history and the characteristics and outcomes of Australian youth: outcomes of wave 2 of the Youth in Focus survey
    D.Cobb-Clark and A.Sartbayeva. February 2010
  10. The capacity of families to support young Australians: financial transfers from parents, co-residence, and youth outcomes
    D.Cobb-Clark and T.Gørgens. April 2011
  11. Cognitive Skills, Gender and Risk Preferences
    A. L. Booth and P. Katic. December 2011.
  12. Parents' Economic Support of Young-Adult Children: Do Socioeconomic Circumstances Matter?
    D.Cobb-Clark and T.Gørgens.February 2012.
  13. Does participation in extracurricular activities reduce engagement in risky behaviours?
    T.Le. October 2013
  14. Is There an Educational Penalty for Being Suspended from School?
    D.Cobb-Clark, S.C.Kassenboehmer, T.Le, D.McVicar and R.Zhang. October 2013.
  15. "High"-School: The Relationship between Early Marijuana Use and Educational Outcomes
    D.Cobb-Clark, S.C.Kassenboehmer, T.Le, D.McVicar. and R.Zhang. October 2014.

Youth in Focus factsheets

  1. Education outcomes of youth respondents
  2. Education outcomes of youth: parents' reports
  3. Youth attitudes and locus of control
  4. Youth employment and job search
  5. Social inclusion
  6. Youth lifestyle and health

If you are a participant and have questions about the survey, you can contact Roy Morgan Research on the Youth in Focus hotline 1800 647 466 or e-mail 

For research-related and other questions about the Youth in Focus project, you can contact members of the research team. 

If you have any queries regarding ethical aspects of the project, you can speak to the survey manager or contact the Secretary of the ANU Human Research Ethics Committee directly at: 

Research Office
Chancelry 10B
The Australian National University
ACT 2601

T: +61 2 612 57945
F: +61 2 612 54807