KidsMatter is underpinned by a strong evidence-base. The materials developed for this initiative draw upon internationally-recognised research in the field of children’s mental health and wellbeing.
Risk and protective factors
KidsMatter uses a risk and protective framework to focus on areas where schools and early childhood education and care (ECEC) services can influence children’s mental health.
Research has identified a range of risk factors that are likely to increase the chance of children experiencing poor mental health. There are also a number of protective factors, characteristics or conditions that can support children when risk factors are present. Protective factors act to strengthen children’s mental health and wellbeing, reducing the likelihood or severity of mental health problems.
The KidsMatter framework is based on a risk and protective model, identifying key areas where significant adults in children’s lives can work to strengthen protective factors and minimise risk factors.
(Adapted from Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, 2000; Spence, 1996)
The KidsMatter framework views children as active participants in their own development, both shaping and being shaped by their environment. This concept is expressed in the socio-ecological model of human development, which is central to the KidsMatter initiative.
The socio-ecological model recognises that there are multiple influences on children’s mental health and wellbeing. The child is at the centre of this model, and development occurs within the context of relationships with family, community and education and care settings.
Children are further influenced by the wider social, economic, cultural, workplace and political forces in which their families, communities and education and care services exist.
(Adapted from Bronfenbrenner, 1977)
Prevention, promotion and early intervention (PPEI)
KidsMatter also draws from the World Health Organization's (WHO) Health Promoting School’s framework. This advocates a whole-school model of promotion, prevention and early intervention to support children’s mental health and wellbeing.
It focuses on 3 core areas of operation in schools:
- ethos and environment
- curriculum teaching and learning
- partnerships and services.
KidsMatter captures these core areas within its framework but explicitly includes the influence and involvement of parents and carers at each level of intervention.
The model has also been modified to highlight the important role schools and ECEC services play in supporting students experiencing mental health difficulties, and working with parents and carers to facilitate help-seeking and referral pathways within and outside of the education setting.