Can a childcare centre help prevent child maltreatment? AIFS study underlines the importance of a population approach

Moving a percentage of the population away from behaviours that can have a long-lasting impact on society has long been a key driver behind the development of the multi-level Triple P system.

Now a report by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) underlines the importance of a population approach to prevent child maltreatment and the role that family interventions can play.

The report refers to a Productivity Commission recommendation for the involvement of child care and early learning centres in risk assessment and early intervention to protect children. As well as providing a safe learning environment for children, early learning centres could also help improve life at home by offering skills development and information to parents.

The report, A safe and supportive family environment for children: Key components and links to child outcomes (2014, Mullan K and Higgins, D) analyses data from the AIFS longitudinal study, Growing Up in Australia, to identify the prevalence of different types of family environments and their links to children’s health and well-being.

The study looks at outcomes for children from different types of families and tracks what happens when those family environments change.

Among the findings:

  • Children from families displaying below-average levels of parental warmth and parent-child shared activities and above-average levels of hostile parenting – identified as disengaged families – had lower Year 5 NAPLAN reading and numeracy scores.
  • Children aged 2-3 from families displaying average levels of parental warmth but higher than average levels of parental conflict – identified as enmeshed families – were more likely to be underweight.
  • And children aged 2-3 from disengaged families were more likely to have one or more injuries per year.

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