Neighbourhood effects influencing early childhood development: Conceptual model and trial indicator measurement methodologies from the Kids in Communities Study

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Journal Article


Socio-environmental factors, including the neighbourhoods in which children live and grow, are key determinants of children’s developmental outcomes. Thus, it is important to examine and consider the relationships between these factors and the multiple contexts that influence children. Drawing on a broad disciplinary range of existing research, we aimed to develop a conceptual model of neighbourhood effects influencing early childhood development. The neighbourhood effects literature was reviewed with a specific focus on existing models and frameworks. This review was then further expanded through consultation with our cross-disciplinary research collaboration (Kids in Communities Study Collaboration). From this a theoretical model specific to early childhood development was developed. The hypothesised model comprised five interconnected domains: physical, social, service, socio-economic, and governance. A small trial of indicator measurement was conducted and findings were used to make a series of recommendations regarding measures or indicators which might provide useful and effective for neighbourhood effects research. The proposed model provides a useful and novel conceptual framework for classifying neighbourhood effects research. By synthesising disparate but related areas of research, the resultant five domains provide a useful approach to understanding and measuring child development in the context of community and environment, therefore advancing knowledge in this area. Expanding the current neighbourhood effects paradigm to accommodate broader constructs appears critical in considering the multiple environments that may act as key determinants of children’s wellbeing and psychosocial outcomes.

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