Assessing indicators and correlates of child wellbeing in communities

Dr Jacqueline Homel1, Dr  Ross Homel2, Dr Kate Freiberg2, Dr Sara Branch2, Dr  Tara McGee1

1School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University, Mount Gravatt, Australia
2Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University, Mount Gravatt, Australia

Behavioural health problems in primary-school aged children (such as substance use, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and school disengagement) vary greatly across different communities. Communities are motivated to reduce these problems and improve the wellbeing of children through early intervention, which can reduce early-in-life risk factors for youth offending. However, they often lack good data on the risk and protective factors for child wellbeing in their communities, that could be used to inform investment in programs and policies. This paper describes a methodology for comparing risk and protective factors for children’s wellbeing across 152 communities in NSW and QLD. Communities were identified as Statistical Area 2. These are geographic areas that interact socially and economically, often aligned to suburbs in urban areas.

The data used were drawn from many different sources. The voices of 6-12 year-old children from community primary schools were incorporated using the ‘Rumble’s Quest’ video game, which measures child social-emotional wellbeing. Information about community levels of disadvantage, crime, and educational achievement were drawn from administrative sources. Detailed community-level data from the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) provided information about the developmental wellbeing of 5-year-old children.

Data were mapped onto 21 risk and protective factors for child wellbeing. These were drawn from the developmental literature, as well as theoretical perspectives on child development. These included factors at the individual/peer level (e.g. self-esteem, positive peer relationships), family level (e.g. presence of a caring adult), school level (e.g. school attachment) and community level (e.g. crime, disadvantage).

In this presentation we first describe how well the various data sources cluster on the 21 risk and protective factors. We then discuss differences in risk and protective factors across communities, and consider how this information could be used to guide responses to areas of concern.


Jacqueline is a lecturer in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University. Her research focuses on individual, family, peer and neighbourhood facilitators of successful development during childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Of particular interest are early-in-life prevention of criminal offending, and the neighbourhood and developmental contexts of substance use in adolescence and young adulthood. Also of special interest are the statistical modelling of complex longitudinal processes, and the innovative use of administrative data in longitudinal and life course research.


Dec 10 2021