Early childhood is a critical time to address risk factors associated with developmental vulnerability and to provide services to promote children’s health, wellbeing, development and learning. Analysis of more than 5400 Tasmanian five-year-olds found a range of influences are likely to set a child back in the early stages of education.
Research published in the British Medical Journal, using population-wide linkage of Tasmanian administrative data, examined the relationship between clusters of early life risk factors and developmental vulnerability on the 2015 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) at age five.
This study used latent class analysis was to captures the multidimensionality of developmental disadvantage. This study identified five clusters of risk factors: low risks (65% of children), sociodemographic and health behaviour risks (24%), teenage mother and sociodemographic risks (6%), birth risks (3%), and birth, sociodemographic and health behaviour risks (2%). In this sample population, 20% of children were classified as developmentally vulnerable on the AEDC, but the proportion varied substantially by latent class.
This research showed that the greater the number and type of risk factors, the stronger the association with developmental vulnerability on the AEDC. This research also found that sixty-five percent of Tasmanian children did not experience multiple disadvantages, and this group had the lowest proportion but the highest number of children with developmental vulnerability at age five.
The patterning of risks across the five groups invites consideration of multisectoral policies and services to address complex clusters of risk factors associated with developmental vulnerability.