Neighbourhood Environment and Early Child Development

Can where we live influence child development?

This research investigates the role of neighbourhood attributes in explaining the variation in early child health and development outcomes using the Australian Early Development Census data relating to four- to six-year-olds.

Through these statistics, we will be analysing the developmental delays, dependent on where these children live. Specifically, we will be looking at delays in physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, and language, cognitive and communication skills, all of which have significant health, social and economic consequences for later life.

The built environment has an important influence on children’s health, and given the long‐term costs of poor child health and development, it is vital to understand the qualities and characteristics of neighbourhoods that promote or discourage healthy child development.

A main aim of this project is to identify neighbourhood attributes, such as access to early childhood education and care and health services, which are associated with early child health and development outcomes.

We will also determine the extent to which attributes of the neighbourhood environment explain variation in developmental vulnerability across socioeconomic groups and geographical areas, such as outer urban fringe versus inner city.

We are collaborating with the Telethon Kids Institute to carry out this research.

Research team leader: Associate Professor Hayley Christian

UWA Associate Professor Hayley Christian researches areas that focus on improving children’s lives, whether through emotional wellbeing or physical play. She examines health and wellbeing through multi-level interventions focused on the child, family, social and built environment. This includes identifying and testing strategies to create healthy early childhood education and care environments, while investigating how the home and neighborhood environment shapes children’s health and development.

PhD opportunities

This project aims to identify aspects of the built environment that are important for child health and development. This research will use data from the Australian Early Development Census and/or Middle Years Development Index to examine the neighbourhood attributes, such as access to child education and health services, associated with child health and development outcomes.

It will provide evidence to determine a child-friendly environment in the context of a neighbourhood, and the optimal levels of built environment features for child health and development.

PhD student requirements specific to this project include:

  • ability to conduct quantitative and qualitative research
  • ability to undertake statistical analysis (spss and/or sas)
  • excellent writing skills
  • ability to work as part of a team
  • good interpersonal communication skills

Once you have ensured you meet the eligibility criteria and are ready to discuss a proposal, contact research team leader Associate Professor Hayley Christian to identify a potential supervisor.


For more information on topics relating to this project, read the following:

Contact Dr Hayley Christian