Early Years Research

Chalk pencils on pavement
Why Study the Early Years?

Since the Canadian Federal Government commissioned the groundbreaking early years study in 1998 The Early Years Study: Reversing the Real Brain Drain, published in 1999 by Hon. Margaret McCain and J. Fraser Mustard, and with help from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY) and Statistics Canada, we have learned how important the first six years from conception are to providing the best outcomes for a child's future. Some key messages from the study include the following:

  • Early experiences and stimulating interactions with adults and other children are far more important for brain development than previously realized.
  • The first six years greatly affect brain development and subsequent learning, behaviour, and physical and emotional health.
  • The effects of the early years last a lifetime.
  • Children who miss those early positive experiences and stimulation and are exposed to stress in the first few years of life will have great difficulty overcoming deficits later.
  • Negative experiences often result in later addictions, poor mental health, and chronic health conditions. In addition to the direct costs of acute care and chronic disease treatment, poor health in adulthood results in reduced capacity to participate in the workplace and in society.
  • Parenting style, access to quality childcare and neighbourhood characteristics also have an impact on children's development.
  • Investments made in the early years of life result in better returns than those made later on.

By studying the early years, we can learn how parents, government, and communities can support early childhood development to better prepare young children for success in school, careers, and society.

The Ministry of Education (EDU) works with community partners such as municipalities, school boards, health units, child care and Children's Services providers by giving children the best start in life. They have invested in programs such as the EarlyON Child and Family Centes. The Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) invests in such programs as Healthy Babies/Healthy Children, Speech and Language, Infant Hearing and Blind-Low Vision.

EDU funds important early years research projects, such as the Early Development Instrument (EDI) and the Kindergarten Parent Survey (KPS) to tell us how well children are doing and help predict how well they will do in school. EDU also funds the Data Analysis Coordinator (DAC) position, which coordinates these projects and helps communities make sense of the collected information at the neighbourhood level.

Ministry of Education Think, Feel, Act