Stay informed with the latest updates on coronavirus (COVID-19). Find out more >>
CCCH art

Kids in Communities Study

  • The Kids in Communities Study (KiCS) is working to understand how different factors in our communities—physical environment, social environment, socio-economic factors, access to services, and governance—influence the way that children develop. We know that the early childhood years have a profound and lasting impact on children’s health and developmental outcomes. We also know that there are different factors in our communities that play a major role in the healthy development of children, particularly the resources that families can access. We don’t know exactly which community factors impact child development, and how we can modify those factors to help all children to have the best start in life. The what and the how is what KiCS wants to answer.

    The KiCS Final Report – Foundational Community Factors (FCFs) For Early Childhood Development – is now available.

    Read the Final Report

    The origins of KiCS

    KiCS was developed from the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) findings. Formerly known as the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI), the AEDC is a population level measure of early childhood development that was conducted across Australia in 2009, 2012 and 2015. The AEDC measures outcomes across five domains of early child development (physical, social, emotional, language and cognitive, and communication and general knowledge) at a small area (suburb or small town) level.

    The first AEDC study in 2009 showed us that there were children who lived in areas of relative socio-economic disadvantage, but had better developmental outcomes than would have been predicted. The opposite was also true. There were children in relatively advantaged communities who did not have developmental outcomes that were as good as would be expected. This told us that good early childhood development was more complex than just how socio-economically advantaged your community is. This finding led a group of researchers to partner with other researchers, federal and state governments, and non-government organisations to learn more about what how communities influence child development. This was the start of KiCS.

    After completing a successful pilot study conducted in two local communities in Victoria in 2010, the KiCS study has expanded to 25 communities in five states and territories: VIC, NSW, QLD, SA, and ACT. The KiCS research team includes academic experts from six universities, and policymakers and child development professionals from 10 government and non-government partner organisations.

    How will the KiCS study be conducted? 

    The KiCS study will use a variety of research methods during its three phases, running from 2014 to 2016. In Phase 1, we collected different types of data about child development and socio-economic status to find communities in VIC, NSW, QLD, SA, and the ACT where children are developing unexpectedly well or poorly when compared with the socio-economic status of their suburb. We will then compare these communities to other communities where children’s outcomes are in line with what the predicted outcomes would be based on their socio-economic status. This analysis will be based on data from the Australian Early Development Index Census (AEDC), which measures children’s outcomes in five areas of early childhood development, and is completed during a child’s first year of formal schooling.

    In Phase 2, we worked with our KiCS partner investigators in each state and territory to collect data using community surveys, focus groups with parents and service providers, interviews with local stakeholders and experts, and mapping of neighbourhoods. In Phase 3, we will analyse all the data that has been collected and use it to develop a detailed manual for communities and local governments to use in measuring and improving child development outcomes. We will also share the findings of the study in academic publications and research snapshots, as well as policy roundtables with our partner investigators.



    KICS Final report cover

    KiCS Final Report (2018) 

    From the ARC-funded project, the Australian Government Department of Social Services (DSS) provided further funding to develop evidence-based draft community-level Foundational Community Factors (FCFs) for early childhood development (ECD). These are factors that lay the foundations of a good community for young children.

    The KiCS report has a list of evidence-based promising (draft) FCFs for ECD, based on findings from KiCS.

    Download the Executive Summary.

    Short reports containing specific information and findings for each community involved in KiCS have been distributed to stakeholders and participants. 

    Example of community profile report (2018)

    Final report of the KiCS pilot study (2010)

    Draft community manual

    The draft community manual outlines the ‘how-to’- of collecting the Foundational Community Factors (FCFs). 

    It provides suggestions on measures and methods to collect a subset of the FCFs locally. We are interested in learning more about whether communities can use this manual for place-based efforts. 

    What’s in this manual?

    • List of 13 FCFs, and where to get started with measuring the FCFs
    • Practical information about how to collect the FCFs (methods and measures) 

    Who is this manual for?

    Communities seeking to improve the health and development of local children can collect local data on FCFs to better understand what may potentially make a difference to children’s development in their community. This manual is designed for local community organisations wanting to measure local community-level factors for early childhood:

    • local government staff e.g. early years planners
    • service providers
    • community development staff
    • local researchers.

    Why use this manual?

    The FCFs are based on evidence from KiCS, which means that critical points of intervention for creating better environments for children’s health and wellbeing are informed by research. This means the FCFs are based on evidence from communities themselves, and are specific and measurable at the local level. 

    Use this manual to:

    • Identify potential points of intervention for your community and prioritise key areas.
    • Get a clearer picture of its community and how the community is tracking in areas related to ECD.

    Learn more and partner with us

    For community-level FCFs to be implemented and monitored over time, it is vital to understand how communities can best measure the FCFs locally. Testing the measurement of this manual is crucial to identify methods that do and do not work in the local context. Working with communities to design the best approach to local implementation of these FCFs is of high importance if the manual is to be sustainable long-term. 

    If you’re interested in learning more and/or testing the manual in your community, please contact the KiCS team:

    Information sheets


    • Goldfeld, S., G. Woolcock, I. Katz, R. Tanton, S. Brinkman, E. O’Connor, T. Mathews and B. Giles-Corti (2015). "Neighbourhood Effects Influencing Early Childhood Development: Conceptual Model and Trial Measurement Methodologies from the Kids in Communities Study." Social Indicators Research120(1): 197-212.
    • Tanton, R., M. Dare, S. Brinkman, B.-G. Corti, I. Katz, G. Woolcock and S. Goldfeld (2015). "Identifying off-diagonal communities using the Australian Early Development Census results." Social Indicators Research: 1-16.
    • Goldfeld, S., K. Villanueva, R. Tanton, I. Katz, S. Brinkman, G. Woolcock and B. Giles-Corti (2017). "Kids in Communities Study (KiCS) study protocol: a cross-sectional mixed-methods approach to measuring community-level factors influencing early child development in Australia." BMJ Open7(3).
    • Goldfeld, S. and K. Villanueva (2017). "The Kids in Communities Study: what is it about where you live that makes a difference to children's development?" Early Childhood Matters: Moving towards scale: advancing early childhood development (126): 100.


    The KiCS study is led by The University of Melbourne in partnership with the University of New South Wales, University of Canberra, The University of Western Australia, University of Southern Queensland, and RMIT University. The project is funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant, along with generous support from our partner funders: The Australian Government Department of Education and Training, the Australian Capital Territory Community Services Directorate, Children's Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service, the South Australia Department for Education and Child Development, the Victorian Department of Education and Training, the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities, the New South Wales Department of Family and Community Services, The Benevolent Society, Uniting Care and the Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment. From KiCS findings, the development of draft foundational community factors (FCFs) for ECD is led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute with funding from the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

    Generous in-kind support has been provided by:
    The Australian Government Department of Education and Training, Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Capital Territory Community Services Directorate, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities, Children's Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service, the South Australia Department for Education and Child Development, The Smith Family, the Victorian Department of Education and Training, Wesley Mission Brisbane, The Benevolent Society, Uniting Care,Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment, Mount Saint Vincent University, University of British Columbia and the University of Ohio. 


    Ethics approval was granted by the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) #30016.

    Investigators and Partner Organisations

    Chief investigators:
    • Prof Sharon Goldfeld (Lead Chief Investigator), University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics, Royal Children’s Hospital, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
    • Prof Billie Giles-Corti, RMIT University, Melbourne
    • Prof Robert Tanton, National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM), University of Canberra
    • A/Prof Sally Brinkman, University of Western Australia Centre for Child Health Research
    • Prof Ilan Katz, Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales
    • A/Prof Geoff Woolcock, Univeristy of Southern Queensland
    Federal and state government partner organisations:
    • Australian Government Department of Education and Training
    • Australian Bureau of Statistics
    • Victorian Department of Education and Training
    • Australian Capital Territory Community Services Directorate
    • Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service
    • South Australia Department for Education and Child Development
    • New South Wales Department of Education and Communities
    • Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment
    • New South Wales Department of Family and Community Services
    Non-government partner organisations:
    • The Smith Family
    • Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
    • Wesley Mission Brisbane
    • The Benevolent Society
    • Uniting Care 

    Other collaborating organisations:

    • University of British Columbia (Canada)
    • Mount Saint Vincent University (Canada)
    • University of Ohio (USA)


    For more information about the Kids in Communities Study, please email 


Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

The Centre for Community Child Health is a department of The Royal Children’s Hospital and a research group of Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.