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Kids in Communities (KiCS)

Research project

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 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 the ACT. The KiCS research team includes academic experts from six universities, and policymakers and child development professionals from 17 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.