Australian Early Development Census Extension Project - Children & Young Adult Census
This project builds on an established collaboration with the Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) which aims to strengthen community-based approaches to promoting mental health, and preventing mental disorder, within and across generations.
The aim is to implement a new population level system for monitoring the development of core social and emotional competencies as they emerge across childhood, adolescence, young adulthood and into parenthood and raising the next generation.
The project takes an explicitly strengths-based approach to monitoring the development of the psychosocial assets needed to ensure strong populations with robust capabilities for adaptation to prevailing challenge, change and loss that characterise the life course.
The project builds on decades of longitudinal research that has repeatedly shown that every age and stage of development matters in the trajectories that children and young people take; that at no point in early development can investments be dropped without significant consequences for the population as a whole, and; that a life course approach to monitoring the social and emotional growth of children and young people is essential for strengthening population to successful psychosocial adjustment across the entire life course.
The work further builds on the demonstrated success of the Federally funded Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) which assesses the health and wellbeing of all Australian children and their families (N=302,000), on entry to school (5-6 years), across 9400 schools, every three years at a cost of $33M. We are extending the AEDC by seven additional surveys positioned earlier in childhood (Parent/Perinatal and Toddlerhood), and later, in Middle Childhood (9- and 12-years), Adolescence (15- and 18-years) and Young Adulthood (18 to 21-years).
Each census survey tracks three developmental pathways (depression/anxiety, antisocial behaviour/drug misuse and positive development) across three asset classes (individual, relational and contextual). In doing so, the systems take a comprehensive and explicitly life course approach to monitoring and supporting growth in core capabilities needed for building the long term social and economic capital of Australia. An early life course approach to strengthening mental health within and across generations.
The age appropriate content of each census is based on the study design and instrumentation of some of the longest running cohort studies in our region: the Australian Temperament Project & Generation 3 Study (20 waves, est. 1983), the International Youth Development Project (13 waves, est. 2002), and the Triple B Pregnancy Cohort Study (8 waves, est. 2009).
Each measurement domain has been further populated with high performance single item indicators with demonstrated reliability in over 20 years of government surveillance work within the DET Performance and Evaluation Division and the Human Early Learning Partnership (UBC, Canada).
This unique project brings together excellence in life course research with excellence in population surveillance to demonstrate the feasibility of population administration of an interconnected set of seven census surveys, including the AEDC, capable of providing governments and communities with robust epidemiological road maps of child and adolescent social and emotional development. All census surveys are delivered through existing universal platforms – maternal child health and education – to enable whole of population data capture.
The first phase of the monitoring system (funded by the Ian Potter Foundation and DET) spanning early and middle childhood was successfully field tested in five regional Victorian communities (2017-2019) and more recently in a community sponsored shire-wide implementation (2019).
The partnership is now testing the feasibility of the full monitoring system (including adolescent and young adult surveys) in the Shires of Loddon and Buloke, Victoria through the North Central LLEN. The approach holds considerable promise for strengthening community-based approaches to promoting mental health, and preventing mental disorder, within and across generations.