EDI BC 2016: Patterns and Trends in Children’s Developmental Health

Photo Credit: Free stock photography from Unsplash user Myles Tan.
Photo Credit: Free stock photography from Unsplash user Myles Tan.

Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) has been collecting Early Development Instrument (EDI) data since 2001 and has collected data for over 245,000 kindergarten children in BC.  This has created an important foundation for a population health monitoring system that supports an increased understanding of children’s early developmental outcomes over time and across geographies.

The EDI BC: 2016 Provincial Report explores patterns and trends in early child development outcomes in BC through the use of EDI data.

An Introduction to the EDI, the full report for downloading, and an interactive map, can be found at EDI BC 2016  [Human Early Learning Partnership. EDI [Early Years Development Instrument] British Columbia Provincial Report, 2016. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia, School of Population and Public Health (October 2016)]

The key positive trend highlighted by the report is:

  1. Provincially, the vulnerability rate for Language and Cognitive Development has improved since 2007 and remains the lowest of all the EDI scales.

The report includes a note that this is an area “that has received a great deal of attention through a variety of literacy and numeracy initiatives and programs.  It is an area of development where there are known and proven methods to improve children’s outcomes…. At the same time, a singular focus on the area of language and cognitive development could be having a more detrimental effect on children’s development as the experience higher levels of stress.”

Key concerns highlighted by the report include:

  1. Child vulnerability in BC remains over 30% and there has been no significant change in the overall rate of vulnerability over the last three years;
  2. Provincial vulnerability rate for Physical Health and Well-being has worsened over time from Wave 2 to Wave 6;
  3. There is still a worsening trend in vulnerability on the Emotional Maturity and Social Competence scales. This trend can also be observed in the large percentage of neighbourhoods experiencing a worsening vulnerability rate on these scales;
  4. Vulnerability in the province is becoming increasingly complex. The proportion of children who are vulnerable on two or more scales has increased. This is concerning because evidence suggests that children who experience adversity or vulnerabilities in multiple domains are more likely to experience challenges later in life (e.g., fail academic assessments; report symptoms of anxiety and depression) whereas children with assets and protective factors across domains are more likely to experience high social and emotional well-being (Boivin and Hertzman, 2012).
  5. Neighbourhoods matter. The variation of vulnerability rates across neighbourhoods is large. This demonstrates that the early experiences of children vary greatly from one neighbourhood to the next and these variations have profound implications for child outcomes.

The report also notes a concern about the effects of technology on development in young children:  “There is also increasing evidence that the significant upward trend in technology use is influencing social competence. The topic of technology use is a very broad and complex one. While the interactive use of technology can have positive effects on children’s development, particularly in the area of language and cognitive development, passive and solitary use is often sedentary and lacking in social interaction. There is some evidence that it is disrupting toddlers’ attachment to caregivers and that children are less able now to self-occupy and play (Swingle, 2016).”

An Introduction to the EDI

The EDI is a questionnaire used province-wide to measure patterns and trends in children’s developmental health. HELP has been collecting EDI data since 2001 and over the course of this period we have collected data for over 245,000 kindergarten children in BC.This has created an important foundation for a population health monitoring system that supports an increased understanding of children’s early developmental outcomes over time and across geographies.

The EDI was developed by Drs. Dan Offord and Magdalena Janus at the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University (Janus et al, 2007) and has been used in provinces and territories across Canada, and internationally, to better understand the developmental trends of kindergarten children (Guhn et al, 2016; Janus et al, 2016). Increasingly, Canadian EDI data are providing a basis for assessing developmental differences and trends in different parts of the country (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2016).

The EDI was designed as an epidemiological tool to assess population trends and not as an individual diagnostic tool. The questionnaire includes 104 questions arranged in five scales that measure core areas of child development. These areas are strong predictors of health, education and social outcomes in adolescence and adulthood. Kindergarten teachers complete EDI questionnaires for students in their classroom in February of the school year once they have known their children for a while. Teachers participate in a standardized EDI training session prior to completing the questionnaire.

The Five Scales of the EDI


Assesses children’s gross and fine motor skills, physical independence and readiness for the school day. E.g. Can the child hold a pencil? Is the child able to manipulate objects? Is the child on time for school?


Assesses children’s overall social competencies, capacity for respect and responsibility, approaches to learning, and readiness to explore new things. E.g. Is the child able to follow class routines? Is the child self-confident? Is the child eager to read a new book?


Assesses children’s prosocial and helping behaviours, as well as hyperactivity and inattention, and aggressive, anxious and fearful behaviours. E.g. Does the child comfort a child who is crying or upset? Does the child help clean up a mess?


Assesses children’s basic and advanced literacy skills, numeracy skills, interest in math and reading, and memory. E.g. Is the child interested in reading and writing? Can the child count and recognize numbers? Is the child able to read simple sentences?


Assesses children’s English language skills and general knowledge. E.g. Can the child tell a story? Can the child communicate with adults and children? Can the child take part in imaginative play?

How Does the EDI Measure Childhood Vulnerability

Data gathered from the EDI are used to report on childhood vulnerability rates. The data illustrate trends in vulnerability over time. Through data analysis and mapping, it also becomes possible to examine regional differences in child vulnerability at multiple geographical levels from a broad provincial snapshot, to community and neighbourhood analyses.

Vulnerable children are those who, without additional support and care, are more likely to experience challenges in their school years and beyond. Vulnerability is assessed for each of the five EDI scales. Children whose scores fall below the vulnerability cut-off on a particular EDI scale are said to be vulnerable in that area of development.

Reporting on EDI Vulnerability


The proportion of children vulnerable on each of the five scales of the EDI, measured and reported as vulnerability rates.


Vulnerable on One or More Scales is a summary measure that reports the percentage of children who are vulnerable on at least one of the five scales of the EDI. Children represented by this measure may be vulnerable on only one scale or may be experiencing vulnerabilities on two, three, four or all five scales of the EDI.


This year’s report explores EDI subscales scores and how these contribute to scale-level vulnerability. See the ‘Subscales’ section for more information.

News & UpdatesMonica Gault