In Canada, more than one in four children are considered vulnerable in at least one domain of development when they enter kindergarten. Recent studies have suggested that this ratio is higher among those who were previously maltreated. However, little is known about this associations at the neighborhood level, although it may be an interesting way to identify risk areas and highlight child welfare system data to prevent public health issues.
Using the census tract as the unit of measurement, this study examines the association between the proportions of vulnerable children in different domains of development upon entering kindergarten, and four indicators of child maltreatment (CM) among 0–5 year olds.
Participants, setting and method
This study is based on the secondary use of data from a survey on the development of kindergartners carried out in 2017, combined with data from child welfare records for that same year. The data have been aggregated on the basis of 759 census tracts located in four health regions of Quebec, Canada.
The results of spatial regression analyses show that all indicators of maltreatment are positively and significantly associated with each indicator of developmental vulnerability. The size of these associations varies according to the indicators used (β = 0.192, p < .05 to β = 1.587, p < .001).
The results highlight the link between CM and school readiness, including potential externalities on neighborhood children. Neighborhoods at high risk of maltreatment could help identify areas with high rate of vulnerable children in early childhood.