Emerging trends from the AEDC

Emerging trends from the AEDC

This fact sheet provides an overview of the national results from the 2009, 2012 and 2015 data collections.

About the census

What is the AEDC?

The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) is a nationwide measure that looks at how young children have developed by the time they start their first year of full-time school. It measures five important areas, or domains, of early childhood development that are closely linked to the predictors of adult health, education and social outcomes. The five domains are:

  • Physical health and wellbeing
  • Social competence
  • Emotional maturity
  • Language and cognitive skills (school-based)
  • Communication skills and general knowledge

Why is the 2015 collection significant?

Data for the AEDC has been collected every three years since 2009, with the third round of national data collection completed in 2015. Now, for the first time, schools, communities and governments can track emerging trends in early childhood development.

Since 2009, the census has included over 96 per cent of eligible children in their first year of full-time school. The three collections included data on over 850,000 children.

The wealth of information gathered from these three collections will provide more reliable data to inform communities and governments of best practice in the important area of early childhood development.

Emerging trends

Overall, the 2015 results shows that around 1 in 5 children were developmentally vulnerable on one or more domain(s),
which is in line with results from in 2012, and an improvement from results from 2009.

Figure 1

Percentage of developmentally vulnerable children by domain and by cycle 

AEDC ​Domains

Physical health and wellbeing 

The proportion of children developmentally vulnerable in the physical health and well-being domain was quite stable at 9.4 and 9.3 per cent in 2009 and 2012, but increased to 9.7 per cent in 2015.

Social competence

Developmental vulnerability in the social competence domain decreased from 9.5 per cent in 2009 to 9.3 per cent in 2013, and has increased to 9.9 per cent in 2015.

Emotional maturity

The number of children developmentally vulnerable in the emotional maturity domain has fluctuated over time. It decreased from 8.9 per cent in 2009 to 7.6 per cent in 2012, then increased to 8.4 per cent in 2015.

Language and cognitive skills

Significant improvements were made in children’s language and cognitive skills. The proportion of children who are developmentally vulnerable across the language and cognitive skills domain has decreased from 8.9 per cent in 2009 to 6.5 per cent in 2015.

Communication skills and general knowledge

Developmental vulnerability across the communication and general knowledge domain has steadily decreased from 9.2 per cent in 2009 to 8.0 per cent in 2015.

Gender differences

Similar to previous AEDC results, more boys were developmentally vulnerable than girls in 2015. Twenty eight per cent of boys were considered developmentally vulnerable in comparison to 15 per cent of girls. This percentage has remained steady over the three collections.

Key gender differences have been identified in domains such as health, social and emotional development and language and cognitive skills. The disparity is consistent across socio-economic gradients.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

There has been a significant decrease over time in the percentage of Indigenous children vulnerable on one or more domain(s), from 47 per cent in 2009 to 42 per cent in 2015.

While Indigenous children are twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable than non-Indigenous children, promising results show that this gap is narrowing over time.

Figure 2

Percentage of children developmentally vulnerable in one or more domain(s)


AEDC data suggests that where children live can have an impact on their development. Children living in very remote areas in Australia in 2015 were twice as likely as those living in major cities to be developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains, at 47 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.

The percentage of developmentally vulnerable children in major cities and inner regional Australia has remained consistent since 2012 and improved from 2009. However, developmental vulnerability for children in very remote areas has steadily increased since 2009.

This increase in vulnerability is contributing to a widening gap between these children and those in major cities, which has grown from 23 per cent in 2009 to 26 per cent in 2015.


The 2015 AEDC results are encouraging as they show that the development of Australian children is improving on the whole, with developmental vulnerability among children in their first year of full-time school decreasing over time since 2009 nationally. However, differences in developmental vulnerability across the domains and among children from different demographic profiles, suggests there is more work to be done.

Visit the website www.aedc.gov.au to find out more about the 2015 AEDC results.

To find out more about your community results visit the Data Explorer on our website.

Version note

The text on this page is an accessible HTML and updated version of the AEDC resource ​Emerging trends from the AEDC, which is available in PDF format from the Resources ​page.