Socioeconomic gradients in early child development and COVID-19: A pre-post study of kindergarten children in multiple Canadian jurisdictions

Janus, Magdalena | $93,465

Ontario McMaster University 2021 CIHR Operating Grant

Home, early learning and play environments, and community resources play an important role in shaping children’s development. Many of these resources and supports were closed or became disrupted during the COVID‑19 pandemic in Canada, and the impact of these disruptions on young children’s development is unknown. This study will look at the development of kindergarten children attending schools in 2021/22, using the Early Development Instrument (EDI), a teacher-completed checklist of children’s physical, socioemotional, and cognitive development. EDI data have been regularly collected across Canada in most provinces and territories since 2004. These data have been linked with neighbourhood socioeconomic status (SES) data from Census and Taxfiler databases. The goal of our study is to see whether the development of 5-year-old children attending kindergarten in 2022 differs from the development of children who attended kindergarten before the COVID‑19 pandemic. We want to know whether COVID‑19 may have caused changes in children’s development, and whether these changes vary between places where children live and between different groups of children (e.g. based on their sex at birth, their first language, family income, and neighbourhood mix of race/ethnicity). Our project will look at different aspects of children’s health: physical, mental, and cognitive development, and we will explore whether disruptions in schooling and childcare had an impact on children living in different parts of the country. This study will tell us about the impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic on kindergarten children’s development, which is important for later academic achievement and health. It will provide information to help us identify groups of children who may be at particular developmental risk. Our study will offer timely and specific information to educators, health professionals and governments to help prevent possible long-term negative impacts of the pandemic on young children.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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