Children in families in communities: a modified conceptual framework and an analytic strategy for identifying patterns of factors associated with developmental health outcomes in childhood

Garth Edward Kendall

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

127 Downloads (Pure)


Mental health reflects an array of causal influences that span biological, psychological, and social circumstances, with resultant underlying causal pathways to poor mental health outcomes in childhood that are complex. Key features of this complexity are reciprocal interactions between person and environment that take place over time. The core of this thesis seeks to attend to the complexity of development to move the field of developmental health forward toward greater explanation, and more successful prediction and prevention. The focal point of the thesis is the psychosocial determinants of childhood mental health, the resource domain of the developing child, and the interplay between characteristics of the individual child, the family, and the community. The eventual goal is to better understand why and how socioeconomic circumstances impact on developmental health. One component of this thesis focuses on the expansion of extant developmental theory. The other component focuses on the development of an analytic strategy that more appropriately reflects the intricacies of this theoretical expansion. In the process, data are analysed, principally as a heuristic strategy, to illustrate the analytical approach needed to support the theoretical framework. The specification of a bioecological conceptual framework suitable to guide research and policy in developmental health is the first principal objective of the thesis. A critical examination of the resource framework proposed by Brooks-Gunn, Brown, Duncan, and Anderson Moore (1995) reveals it to be centred on family and community resources, but otherwise silent with respect to the physical and psychological resources of the child. The quintessential point of this thesis is that theory in developmental health must be able to account for the contribution individuals make to their own development. A modified resource framework is proposed that acknowledges financial, physical, human, and social capital, within the domains of the individual child, the family, and the community. The second principal objective of the thesis, the development of analytical methods that focus on the individual child and the complexity of data generated by this theoretical approach, is then introduced. Theory and method are thus integrated when comprehensive measures of characteristics in multiple domains across developmental periods are modeled using longitudinal data from the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study (Newnham, Evans, Michael, Stanley, & Landau, 1993). The mothers of 2,860 children were enrolled at 18 weeks in pregnancy and the children have been followed at birth, one, two, three, five, and eight years of age. Eighty-nine per cent (2,537 /2,860) of families were available for follow-up at eight and 74 per cent (2,126/2,860) of families responded. Extensive demographic, psychological, and developmental data were available for the children and their families and a limited amount of data were available for the communities in which they reside. A measure of mental health morbidity, the Child Behaviour Checklist (Achenbach, 1991), was available for the children at two, five, and eight years of age. In the first instance, dichotomous summary variables are derived for the demographic, psychological, and developmental variables of interest. Variables are then selected for inclusion in one of several explanatory models.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2003


Cite this