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Potential of ‘stacking’ early childhood interventions to reduce inequities in learning outcomes


Background Early childhood interventions are critical for reducing child health and development inequities. While most research focuses on the efficacy of single interventions, combining multiple evidence-based strategies over the early years of a child’s life may yield greater impact. This study examined the association between exposure to a combination of five evidence-based services from 0 to 5 years on children’s reading at 8–9 years.

Methods Data from the nationally representative birth cohort (n=5107) of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children were utilised. Risk and exposure measures across five services from 0 to 5 years were assessed: antenatal care, nurse home-visiting, early childhood education and care, parenting programme and the early years of school. Children’s reading at 8–9 years was measured using a standardised direct assessment. Linear regression analyses examined the cumulative effect of five services on reading. Interaction terms were examined to determine if the relationship differed as a function of level of disadvantage.

Results A cumulative benefit effect of participation in more services and a cumulative risk effect when exposed to more risks was found. Each additional service that the child attended was associated with an increase in reading scores (b=9.16, 95% CI=5.58 to 12.75). Conversely, each additional risk that the child was exposed to was associated with a decrease in reading skills (b=−14.03, 95% CI=−16.61 to −11.44). Effects were similar for disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged children.

Conclusion This study supports the potential value of ‘stacking’ early interventions across the early years of a child’s life to maximise impacts on child outcomes.

  • child development
  • cumulative risk
  • socioeconomic disadvantage
  • early childhood interventions
  • child inequities
  • cumulative benefit

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