The early years of a child’s life provide the foundation for future heath, development and wellbeing. The transitions from childhood to adolescence to independent adulthood are also crucial periods for establishing positive health and social behaviours.
A positive start in life helps children to reach their full potential, while a poor start increases the chances of adverse outcomes.
A child’s health, family relationships, where and how they live, the quality of parenting they receive, how they perform at school, their social interactions, and whether they are safe from harm are among a multitude of factors that can have lifelong effects.
Healthy development requires that children grow and learn in supportive and nurturing environments. Early disadvantage can have lasting effects—children who are vulnerable are more likely to develop problems with health, development, learning and behaviours. These problems may have a cumulative effect over their lives, which can have an impact on their ability to fully participate in society.
While many of our children are doing well, there is scope for further gains, particularly among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and children in socioeconomic disadvantaged areas.
Timely, accurate and comprehensive information is essential for monitoring the progress of Australia’s children, and is critical for the development of evidence-based policy. The AIHW reports on the health and wellbeing of children living in Australia across a range of topics related to the domains of health, education, social support, household income and finance, parental employment, housing and justice and safety.
Adolescence and young adulthood
Adolescence and young adulthood is a significant period of transition in a person’s life. It is a time when young people are undergoing rapid emotional, physical and intellectual changes and many modifiable behaviours risk factors (such as smoking and drinking alcohol) either emerge or accelerate during this time.
This transition is affected by social, economic, environmental and, particularly in recent years, technological changes. The pathways from education to work, and from the parental home to independent living, have become more varied and complex for young people, and often extend over longer periods. Each of these transitions comes with its own challenges. How young people navigate these changes can affect the rest of their life course significantly.
While the majority of Australia’s young people cope well with the transitions from adolescence to young adulthood, there are some who are vulnerable to harm and who face limited social, educational or economic opportunities. While there are many factors associated with vulnerability, Indigenous youths, young people from low socioeconomic areas, youths in the child protection and youth justice systems, and those experiencing homelessness are at increased risk.
The AIHW reports on the health and wellbeing of young people aged 12–24 across the domains of health, social support, education, employment, income and finance, housing, and justice and safety.
Between 2011 and 2019, the proportion of mothers smoking during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy fell from 13% to 9%
In 2021, most Year 5 students achieved at or above the national minimum standards for reading (95%) and numeracy (95%)
In 2019–20, almost 39,500 children aged 0–12 were the subject of a child protection substantiation
Severe psychological distress among 18–24 year olds increased from 14% in February 2017 to 22% in April 2020
In February 2021, 11% of 15–24 year olds were not in education, employment or training; similar to February 2020
Between 2001 and 2019, rates of 14-24 year olds who drank at risky levels, smoked daily, or used drugs illicitly fell