How the New South Wales Child Development Study plans to tackle child mental health

Nearly 15% of children and adolescents in Australia had a mental health disorder, yet only half used mental health services. This disparity calls for mental health promotion and early intervention and prevention programs that target vulnerable children. The use of population-level research is key in identifying these children.

Research Summary

The New South Wales Child Development Study (NSW-CDS) is creating a database for health and education information on children and their parents. Their goal is to find what factors put children at risk and what factors can prevent mental health problems.

What is the research about?

Child mental health difficulties can lead to future mental health problems in adulthood. Early identification and intervention can prevent these difficulties.

The NSW-CDS is examining factors that can affect mental health in childhood, teenage years, and adulthood.

What did the researchers do?

The study includes 87,026 children from New South Wales, Australia. Researchers linked these children’s Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) scores to health, education, and child protection data. They also linked the children’s data to the health and criminal records of their parents.

When these children turned 11 years of age, they completed a mental health survey.

What did the researchers find?

Researchers created a database of summarized data on:

  • Sociodemographic information
  • Child development
  • Child educational
  • Child health
  • Parental health
  • Parental criminal offending

What does this research mean?

The next step is to examine the data for each child from birth to 11 years of age. This will be done by linking the survey data with the previous administrative databases. Researchers will then be able to identify risk and protective factors for ill mental health.

This research may help in developing policies and interventions to reduce mental health problems.