National snapshot of children's development


Nearly a quarter of Australian children could be developmentally at risk, according to the findings of the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI), a national research project that measures children's developmental progress as they enter school.

The AEDI, an initiative of the Centre for Community Child Health (CCCH) (a key research centre of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute) in partnership with the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research (TICHR), surveyed over 16,700 children in 25 communities across Australia.

The AEDI is funded by the Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services, as part of the National Agenda for Early Childhood, with corporate support from Shell in Australia.

The findings of the AEDI were announced in Broadmeadows, Melbourne today by the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson.

The AEDI also found that of the children surveyed:

  • 65.1% were performing well (in the top 25%) in at least one area of development
  • 22.6% were developmentally vulnerable (in the lowest 10%) in at least one area of development
  • 11% were developmentally vulnerable in two or more areas of development

CCCH Director, Professor Frank Oberklaid said the AEDI is a powerful tool for creating communities where all children can thrive and grow to fulfill their potential.

"We know that the first five years of life are critical to a child's life-long development, and that communities who put effort and resources into those early years will reap long-term benefits," said Professor Oberklaid.

"The AEDI assists communities to understand how their children are doing in crucial areas of development such as language and communication, emotions, behaviour and social competence.

"What's important about the AEDI is that it offers communities the opportunity to measure their success in providing services to young children and their families and then to target their efforts in the most effective way. As it is a relative index, communities can compare their results with other communities across Australia and to question the reasons behind any differences," he added.

Professor Sven Silburn of TICHR explained that the wide variation of results within communities was equally important.

"Communities will find that in some areas of child development, children are doing better then expected while in other areas there are more concerns. For instance, the picture for language might look different to the picture for emotional development or social competence. This can be due to the social environments for child rearing in a particular community or because of the available opportunities for early language stimulation and exposure," said Professor Silburn.

"This information will help communities to rally around the kinds of action needed to address their specific needs. We know that local resources and access to services can make a difference and this is vital to helping all children make the best possible start as they enter primary school."

"Child friendly communities with good social networks and easy access to services such as community centres, libraries, playgroups and parent support groups, can have a profoundly positive long-term effect on child development," he said.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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