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AQUA 6-8 years follow-up

What is AQUA at 6?

The children in in AQUA study turned six during 2018 and 2019 and we followed their development as they began their journey through school. This stage of the study is called 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 was to gather detailed information on 6-8 year old children about how they are coping with these new demands on their development. We again looked 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 did an assessment with a psychologist, who looked at the child's thinking, reactions, learning, early academic achievement, communication and body movement.

We were also interested in facial development and took 482 children had a 3D photograph taken of their face and head. 146 children had a brain MRI to investigate possible brain characteristics.

427 children provided 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. 

Participation in AQUA at 6


Information for families considering taking part

Here is a video we sent to our families to show them what taking part would involve. This really helped the children to understand what the day would look like.

What families told 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'."


We are currently analysing all the data collected and findings will soon published. Please check the Study updates and Publications tabs to stay up-to-date.

AQUA at 6 Research Team and funding

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