Profiles of Mental Health Competence and Difficulties as Predictors of Children’s Early Learning
- 262 Downloads
There is increasing acknowledgement of the importance of the early years of school in laying the foundations for children’s learning pathways, and interest in the role of mental health in promoting positive early learning experiences. Understanding child mental health requires consideration of both mental health competence and mental health difficulties. The aim of this paper was to determine how profiles of competence and difficulties relate to children’s early learning skills in their first year of school. Cross-sectional data from a population census was used to explore whether children’s mental health profile (the combination of competence and difficulties) predicted key domains of early learning. In 2015, the Australian Early Development Census (a teacher-rated measure of child development) was completed for 96.5% of Australian children in their first year of schooling (N = 302,003; M = 5 years, 7 months of age). Logistic regression analyses revealed that mental health profiles were strongly related to two key domains of early learning: language and cognitive skills, and communication skills and general knowledge. Anything less than the optimal high competence with low difficulties profile was associated with substantially poorer early learning skills (OR 2.17, p < .001 to OR 67.75, p < .001). These results suggest that profiles of mental health competence and difficulties are a salient factor as children begin school, and illustrate the importance of recognising both competence and difficulties when considering the mental health of young children.
KeywordsAustralian Early Development Census (AEDC) Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) Competence Dual continuum Early learning Mental health
This paper uses data from the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC). The AEDC is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training. The findings and views reported are those of the author and should not be attributed to the Department or the Australian Government. There are a number of key groups to be acknowledged for their support of the AEDC: including all schools, principals, and teachers across Australia that participated in the AEDC; and each of the State and Territory AEDC Coordinators and their Coordinating Committees who helped to facilitate the AEDC data collection in their respective jurisdictions. We appreciate their time and commitment. Personnel support for this analysis was funded by the Australian Government, and was supported by the Victorian Government’s Operational Infrastructure Support Program. Prof Goldfeld is supported by Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Career Development Fellowship 1082922. The authors would also like to thank Dr Amanda Kvalsvig for her contribution to earlier versions of this paper, and Dr Alana Deery and Dr Emily Incledon for their input into early analytic and conceptual work informing our current approach.
Personnel support for this analysis was funded by the Australian Government and was supported by the Victorian Government’s Operational Infrastructure Support Program.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
Dr E O’Connor declares that she has no conflict of interest. Dr M O’Connor declares that she has no conflict of interest. Dr Gray declares that she has no conflict of interest. Prof Goldfeld declares that she has no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Andrich, D., & Styles, I. (2004). Final report on the psychometric analyses of the Early Development Instrument (EDI) using the Rasch Model: A technical paper commissioned for the development of the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI). Perth, Australia: Murdoch University.Google Scholar
- Antaramian, S. P., Huebner, E. S., Hills, K. J., & Valois, R. F. (2010). A dual-factor model of mental health: Toward a more comprehensive understanding of youth functioning. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 80(4), 462–472. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1939-0025.2010.01049.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Arnold, D. H., Ortiz, C., Curry, J. C., Stowe, R. M., Goldstein, N. E., Fisher, P. H., et al. (1999). Promoting academic success and preventing disruptive behavior disorders through community partnership. Journal of Community Psychology, 27(5), 589–598. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1520-6629(199909)27:5%3C589::aid-jcop6%3E3.0.CO;2-Y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Atelier Learning Solutions. (2010). Evaluation of the Australian Early Development Index: Data and validity analysis. South Australia: Atelier Learning Solutions.Google Scholar
- Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2006a). Measures of Australia’s progress. Canberra: Author.Google Scholar
- Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2006b). Statistical geography volume 1: Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC). Canberra, Australia: Author.Google Scholar
- Australian Education Ministers. (2008). Melbourne declaration on educational goals for young australians. Melbourne: Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs.Google Scholar
- Boyd, J., Barnett, S., Bodrova, E., Leong, D. J., & Gomby, D. (2005). Promoting children’s social and emotional development through preschool education. New Brunswick, NJ: National Insitute for Early Education Research.Google Scholar
- Brinkman, S., Gregory, T., Harris, J., Hart, B., Blackmore, S., & Janus, M. (2013). Associations between the early development instrument at age 5 and reading and numeracy skills at ages 8, 10 and 12: a prospective linked data study. Child Indicators Research, 6(4), 695–708. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-013-9189-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Croy, C. D., & Novins, D. K. (2005). Methods for addressing missing data in psychiatric and developmental research. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 44(12), 1230–1240. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.chi.0000181044.06337.6f.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Department of Education and Training. (2015). Australian early development census national report 2015. Canberra: Australian Government.Google Scholar
- Department of Health and Human Services. (2015). Victoria’s 10-year mental health plan. Melbourne: Author.Google Scholar
- Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405–432. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01564.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Galera, C., Melchior, M., Chastang, J.-F., Bouvard, M.-P., & Fombonne, E. (2009). Childhood and adolescent hyperactivity-inattention symptoms and academic achievement 8 years later: The GAZEL Youth study. Psychological Medicine, 39(11), 1895–1906. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0033291709005510.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Goldfeld, S., Kvalsvig, A., O’Connor, E., Gray, S., & O’Connor, M. (in preparation). A new conceptualization of child mental health: Competence and difficulties.Google Scholar
- Goldfeld, S., O’Connor, M., Mithen, J., Sayers, M., & Brinkman, S. (2014b). Early development of emerging and English-proficient bilingual children at school entry in an Australian population cohort. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 38, 42–51. https://doi.org/10.1177/0165025413505945.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Goldfeld, S., O’Connor, E., O’Connor, M., Sayers, M., Moore, T., Kvalsvig, A., et al. (2016b). The role of preschool in promoting children’s healthy development: Evidence from an Australian population cohort. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 35, 40–48. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2015.11.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Goodman, R., Ford, T., Simmons, H., Gatward, R., & Meltzer, H. (2000). Using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to screen for child psychiatric disorders in a community sample. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 177(6), 534–539. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.177.6.534.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Hair, E., Halle, T., Terry-Humen, E., Lavelle, B., & Calkins, J. (2006). Children’s school readiness in the ECLS-K: Predictions to academic, health, and social outcomes in first grade. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 21(4), 431–454. http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-33751534584&partnerID=40&md5=3939e4cb93122ba0ddd82bc8500be997.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Henricsson, L., & Rydell, A.-M. (2006). Children with behaviour problems: The influence of social competence and social relations on problem stability, school achievement and peer acceptance across the first six years of school. Infant and Child Development, 15(4), 347–366. https://doi.org/10.1002/icd.448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hinshaw, S. P. (1992). Externalizing behavior problems and academic underachievement in childhood and adolescence: Causal relationships and underlying mechanisms (Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, P.H.S. Review). Psychological Bulletin, 111(1), 127–155. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.111.1.127.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Janus, M., Brinkman, S., Duku, E., Hertzman, C., Santos, R., Sayers, M., et al. (2007). The early development instrument: Population-based measure for communities. In A handbook on development, properties, and use. McMaster University, Canada: Offord Centre for Child Studies.Google Scholar
- Kelly, R. M., Hills, K. J., Huebner, E. S., & McQuillin, S. D. (2012). The longitudinal stability and dynamics of group membership in the dual-factor model of mental health: Psychosocial predictors of mental health. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 27(4), 337–355. https://doi.org/10.1177/0829573512458505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Lim, P., & Gemici, S. (2011). Measuring the socioeconomic status of Australian youth. Adelaide: National Centre for Vocational Education Research.Google Scholar
- Marmot, M. (2010). ‘Fair society, healthy lives: The Marmot Review’. London, UK: A strategic review of health inequalities in England Post-2010.Google Scholar
- Miles, J., Espiritu, R. C., Horen, N., Sebian, J., & Waetzig, E. (2010). A public health approach to children’s mental health: A conceptual framework. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health.Google Scholar
- O’Connor, M., Sanson, A., Hawkins, M., Toumbourou, J., Letcher, P., & Frydenberg, E. (2011). Differentiating three conceptualisations of the relationship between positive development and psychopathology during the transition to adulthood. Journal of Adolescence, 34(3), 475–484. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2010.06.005.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- O’Connor, M., & Cameron, G. (2017). The Geelong grammar positive psychology experience. In E. Frydenberg, A. Martin, & R. Collie (Eds.), Social and emotional learning in Australia and the Asia-Pacific. Singapore: Springer.Google Scholar
- O’Connor, M., Gray, S., Tarasuik, J., O’Connor, E., Kvalsvig, A., Incledon, E., et al. (2016a). Preschool attendance trends in Australia: Evidence from two sequential population cohorts. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 35, 31–39. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2015.11.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- O’Connor, M., Sanson, A., Hawkins, M., Olsson, C., Frydenberg, E., Toumbourou, J., et al. (2012). The relationship between positive development and psychopathology during the transition to adulthood: A person-centred approach. Journal of Adolescence, 35(3), 701–712. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2011.10.006.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Pianta, R. C., & Stuhlman, M. W. (2004). Teacher–child relationships and children’s success in the first years of school. School Psychology Review, 33(3), 444–458.Google Scholar
- Smart, D., Sanson, A., Baxter, J., Edwards, B., & Hayes, A. (2008). Home-to-school transitions for financially disadvantaged children. Sydney: The Smith Family.Google Scholar
- StataCorp. (2015). Stata statistical software: Release 14. College Station, TX: StataCorp LP.Google Scholar
- Suldo, S. M., & Shaffer, E. J. (2008). Looking beyond psychopathology: The dual-factor model of mental health in youth. School Psychology Review, 37, 52–68.Google Scholar