Working Paper

Mapping change over time in Australian children’s developmental vulnerability using the Australian Early Development Census

Published: 2024

Identifying geographic areas where young Australian children’s developmental vulnerability has significantly changed over time can inform future policy-relevant research and practice in several ways. For example, it can inform the choice of specific built environment indicators to monitor over time or inform the selection of key areas for examining length of exposure effects on early child health and development. Critical to this is unpacking whether spatial variation in early child development changes coincides with socio-economic disadvantage.

Developmental vulnerability, as measured by the Australian Early Development Census, was generally inconsistent across all states and territories over the 12-year period 2009-2021. Some Local Government Areas declined, improved or did not change (i.e., were stable either with consistently high, medium or low levels of developmental vulnerability). There was no observed relationship between changes in developmental vulnerability by socio-economic disadvantage as measured by the Socio-economic Indexes for Areas.

Area-level changes in Australian children’s developmental vulnerability can be used to identify built environment characteristics of areas shown to have reduced levels of developmental vulnerability or remain stable with consistently low levels of developmental vulnerability. Details of these Local Government Areas early years programs, services and child-specific policies can also be examined. The longer-term findings could be used to guide urban planning policy for child-friendly cities and potential place-based programs targeting early child development.


Centre Member

Andrea Nathan
Hannah MooreHayley Christian

Centre Member

Jasper Schipperijn

Centre Friend

Karen Villanueva

Centre Member

Sally Brinkman


Nathan, A., Moore, H.L., Brinkman, S., Villanueva, K., Schipperijn, J., & Christian, H. (2024). ‘Mapping change over time in Australian children’s developmental vulnerability using the Australian Early Development Census’, Life Course Centre Working Paper Series, 2024-16. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland.