Number 53 –Contexts of Disadvantage

The report uses data from the first five waves of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) to examine the association between family, neighbourhood and school level disadvantage and children’s cognitive and social outcomes.

The authors found that experience of any one of family, neighbourhood or school level disadvantage is detrimental to children’s cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes.

Certain forms of disadvantage have stronger influences at different times during childhood. Family disadvantage has the strongest influence during early childhood, while by the time the child is aged eight to nine years old, academic achievement is also influenced by neighbourhood and school disadvantage.

There are substantial differences in social and emotional problems according to whether children experienced family, neighbourhood or school level disadvantage. At all ages, the influence of family disadvantage on the social and emotional development of the child is much stronger than the influence of neighbourhood or school disadvantage.

Much of the association between disadvantage and child cognitive outcomes can be attributed to the indirect influence of disadvantage on the home environment, particularly on how much time and effort is spent by parents on activities that stimulate children’s cognitive skills. 

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