In this section
The Kids in Communities Study (KiCS) aimed 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 sought to answer.
The latest KiCS report examined whether built environment features contribute to associations between neighbourhood disadvantage and early childhood development.
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.
The KiCS study used 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 then compared 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 was 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 analysed all the data that had been collected and used it to develop a detailed manual for communities and local governments to use in measuring and improving child development outcomes. We also shared the findings of the study in academic publications and research snapshots.
Based on recommendations from KiCS, a dataset of spatial (objectively-measured) neighbourhood built environment measures, were linked to participant addresses in the 2015 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) for children living in the 21 largest urban and regional Australian cities. Funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment, this
report aimed to examine whether built environment features contribute to associations between neighbourhood disadvantage and early childhood development.
Final report on the neighbourhood built environment (2020)
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.
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)
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.
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:
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:
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:
Ethics approval was granted by the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) #30016.
Other collaborating organisations:
Built Environment and Early Childhood Development investigators:
The Centre for Community Child Health is a department of The Royal Children’s Hospital and a research group of Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.