You are here

AQUA 6-8 years follow-up

What is AQUA at 6?

The children in in AQUA study will be turning six during 2018 and 2019. We have received funding to follow their development as they start their long journey through school. We are calling this the AQUA Early School Years Follow-up or AQUA at 6 for short.

We know that many aspects of the mother's pregnancy, the child's early health and their family environment influence a child's learning and behaviour, especially in the early years. We did not find any developmental problems at age 2 years related to alcohol use in pregnancy in the many children we assessed. However, early development is not always a good predictor of later development. It is critical that we assess this unique group of children again now they have started school.

This is a time when children develop complex social, academic and physical abilities. For example, they learn to fit in with their peers and a classroom routine, and literacy and numeracy skills mature.

The purpose of AQUA at 6 is to gather detailed information on 6-7 year old children about how they are coping with these new demands on their development. We will again be looking at whether occasional, low or moderate alcohol consumption in pregnancy is associated with any problems in the health and development of young children. For this, the children will be doing assessments with a psychologist, who looks at the child's thinking, reactions, learning, early academic achievement, communication and body movement.

We are also interested in the facial development of the children and will be taking 3D photographs, and we have funds to take MRI scans of a subset of children to investigate possible brain characteristics.

Information for participants

Have a look at the video below for a summary of what's involved in taking part. You can also click here for a copy of the Participant Information Pamphlet.

What happens if we are interested in having an MRI brain scan?

Sophie will explain to you what is involved if you are considering taking part in this aspect of the study.  Sophie will show the MRI scanner to your child before you decide on whether to take part. She will demonstrate what the scanner sounds like and what will happpen during the scan.

You can clickPDF iconhere to see a list of movies your child can choose to watch while having the scan.

Click here for more information on why are we doing the scan and what is involved.

If you are considering to take part in the MRI brain scan, you and your child can have a play with the  'Okee in Medical Imaging' training  app. We hope that the games and information in this app will help you and your child to feel comfortable with everything that will happen at the MRI appointment. .

What families are telling us about their experience

Between December 2018 and April 2019, we surveyed 50 mothers of children who did the AQUA at 6 assessment and 3D photo. This is because during discussions with families about participating in the study, some expressed concern about the length of time it takes to do the assessment.  The survey showed that 82% of mums surveyed agreed that the day went more quickly than expected and all were comfortable keeping themselves busy while their child attended the assessment. Mothers also told us that their child enjoyed the activities. Depending on their nature, children most enjoyed the physical activities, such as throwing and catching, or the numbers and block games or just using the iPad for the various tests. 

Here are some comments from mothers who took part in the survey:

"My child loved the activities. I got to have some 'me' time."
"My child enjoyed herself and I enjoyed that!"
"My child enjoyed getting lots of attention! Had fun with challenges."
"My child said it was 'better than school'."

**NEW: Cheek swabs for epigenetics**

We are now inviting the children to also do a cheek swab. Cheek swabs collect some of the loose cheek cells from inside the mouth and are an easy way to obtain DNA for testing. We will be using this DNA to study epigenetics. Epigenetics is a process that controls if genes are activated or switched off. This is important in growth and development. New research shows that epigenetics is an important reason why alcohol infuences children's development differently. This is why it is now important for us to include epigenetic studies in AQUA at 6. More information about this aspect of the study is available here.

Where can I get more information?

If you would like to contact a member of the AQUA at 6 team, please call Sophie on 03 8341 6370 or send us an email to

AQUA at 6 Research Team

AQUA at 6 is funded by the National Health & Medical Research Council for 2018-2021.

Here is our Research Team:

Prof Peter AndersonPrincipal InvestigatorMurdoch Children's Research Institute
Prof Jane HallidayChief InvestigatorMurdoch Children's Research Institute
Prof Elizabeth ElliottChief InvestigatorChildren's Hospital Westmead
Prof Tony PeningtonChief InvestigatorRoyal Children's Hospital
A/Prof Deanne ThompsonChief InvestigatorMurdoch Children's Research Institute
Evi MuggliChief Investigator & Project ManagerMurdoch Children's Research Institute
A/Prof Alicia SpittleChief InvestigatorMurdoch Children's Research Institute
Prof Della ForsterChief InvestigatorLaTrobe University
Dr Sharon LewisChief InvestigatorMurdoch Children's Research Institute
Stephen HearpsChief InvestigatorMurdoch Children's Research Institute
Sophie GibsonProject CoordinatorMurdoch Children's Research Institute
Ngoc NguyenAssessorMurdoch Children's Research Institute
Siobhan JamesAssessorMurdoch Children's Research Institute
Stepahnie MalarbiPsychologistMurdoch Children's Research Institute
Garance DelagneauPhD studentMonash University
Philippa PymanPhD studentMonash University