Disadvantage and development

Changing Children's Chances Research Snapshot cover
Changing Children’s Chances Research Snapshot: Addressing disadvantage to optimise children’s development in Australia.

Changing Children’s Chances brings together leading national and international child equity researchers to identify potential ways to reduce early developmental inequities in Australian children.

The study aimed to identify patterns in children’s experiences of disadvantage over time and quantify the long-lasting impact of disadvantage. It used four lenses related to social determinants – sociodemographic factors, geographic environments, health conditions, and risk factors – to measure children’s exposure to disadvantage and identify its impact on important aspects of children’s development (social-emotional, cognitive, and physical functioning).

A new paper, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, has revealed the extent of children’s exposure to disadvantage. Using data from the Longitudinal Study of Australia’s Children, the study found 41 per cent of children who had experienced disadvantage in the bottom 15 per cent of NAPLAN literacy and numeracy test scores.

The study illustrates that many children experience some form of disadvantage that can have a lasting impact on their development. It also highlights those aspects of disadvantage that are likely to have greater impact on different domains of child development and the potential value of efforts to reduce disadvantage.

The findings suggest that reducing disadvantage early will be of substantial benefit to children’s development: reducing socio-emotional problems by up to 59 per cent; physical function problems by up to 49 per cent; and learning problems by up to 55 per cent.

Lead investigator and CCCH Deputy Director Professor Sharon Goldfeld says that the findings suggest the importance of sustained, evidence-based solutions to address childhood disadvantage.

“Better understanding of how specific aspects of disadvantage relate to child development domains is necessary for greater precision in policy responses.

“If we don’t take into account how disadvantage manifests and occurs over time, well-intended public health and public policy interventions to address inequities could be undermined.”

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