Evidence Centre seminar: February 2019
Published: February 20, 2019
This seminar featured two presentations: one exploring results from a health survey that estimates social, emotional and behavioural difficulties for children aged 3–14 years; the other discussing recent work on the Contribution of Resilience in Children’s Learning.
Social and Emotional Wellbeing of the New Zealand Child Population - video transcript
Linda Pannekoek - Senior Advisor and researcher at the Ministry of Health:
Good morning everyone and thank you all for coming. I see a few familiar faces in the room here so I hope that there's always something new coming out of a presentation. Just for my own interest, who of you is aware of what the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire or the SDQ is? Okay, that's a fair few hands. That's great. I'll start with a bit of an introduction of what the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire is, so hopefully that will be clear to you all after this session, but please feel free to stick up your hand if you've got any questions, if I've forgotten something or if something's not entirely clear. And as was just mentioned, there'll be a Q and A at the end as well so there's plenty of time for questions.
My presentation today will focus on the results that we have from the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire based on the New Zealand Health Survey. And last year I published the report on the Ministry of Health website. There's a link at the bottom there but you can search for it and that will have more detailed results.
So the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire is a screening measure for social, emotional and behavioural problems in children 2 to 14 years of age. I will be presenting on the parent report version. There's also a teacher report version, but that one is not part of the New Zealand Health Survey and there's also a self-report version for older children or young people from 11 to 17 years of age. I also don't have results or data on that one. And very exciting I found out this week that Oranga Tamariki is actually translated the SDQ recently into te reo and that's available on the SDQ website, which I think is a great piece of work.
So as I said the SDQ screens for difficulties in children. It is very important to keep in mind it's a screening measure. It's got 25 items to which the parents respond. So it's very quick and for how short it is I think it does a great job, but it's not a diagnostic tool, so that is important to keep in mind. Widely used internationally and research internationally has shown that it seems to work well in most countries where it's been used or as far as I know (inaudible).
So the questionnaire covers five aspects of children's development, in the areas of emotions, peer relationships, hyperactivity, conduct and pro social behaviour. And the four areas that assess difficulties to get or make up the total difficulty score. I've highlighted there. The original work by Dr Goodman who developed the questionnaire in the UK set up thresholds to determine which children have a score that indicates that they may be at risk and these children should ideally be referred for a further assessment, maybe a clinical assessment and potentially some sort of intervention. These cutoffs were based on a UK study in 1997, I believe. So it's quite a while ago. And their hypothesis -- or they based it on the fact that they wanted to identify around 10% of children as concerning. And around 10% of children as borderline and 80% of the children as developing without any difficulties in the areas that are assessed by the questionnaire. I realize that that's a little while ago. And also it was done in the UK based on the prevalence of mental health issues in children in the UK then, but, as I said, research that (inaudible) everywhere around the world has found that actually these thresholds work quite well in identifying children that do have some level of difficulty that may require attention. And I'll show later that we also find there's a strong association between children identified with issues and some of the other things we looked at.
Just to give you a bit of an idea of the sort of things that parents are asked, an example of the emotional subscale items was many worries, a child worries a lot, and parents can respond, "not true, somewhat true," or "certainly true". In the area of conduct an example is often fights with other children. Hyperactivity: he or she is constantly fidgeting or squirming. Peer problems, an example is being picked on or bullied by other children. And the pro-social skill, one of the items is considerate of other people's feelings.
So there's five questions in each of these areas but they're mixed so that they go ... yeah they're all mixed, so they don't go through one subscale first and then move on to the next area of behaviour. Some questions are phrased positively and some are phrased negatively and in the scoring afterwards that's accounted for.
A little bit about the New Zealand Health Survey. It surveys around 4,600 parents annually about children 0 to 14 years of age. It has some core questions which are the same every year asking about things like health status, diet, risk behaviours, unmet need, a whole range of questions and then each year they have a module that goes into a little bit more depth in specific areas and the SDQ was part of the child developmental health and wellbeing module in 2012-2013, 2014-2015 and 2015-2016. Also in 2016-2017, but when I did this piece of work that data wasn't available yet. So I won't be able to show you results based on that.
The SDQ was used only for 3 to 14 year old children. In 2016-2017 they included two year olds. So parents also responded if their child was two years old, but not in the years that I will be talking about. The results are representative of the New Zealand population. Certain populations are over sampled, so they over sample Maori families or households in areas of high deprivation. But we use weights later on in the analysis to account for that, just to ensure that the results are robust enough to be able to look at sub-populations.
A quick slide to show that there wasn't a lot of difference over the years. So on the left you can see the total SDQ score using the threshold for concerning in which the percentage of children that fell above that. So overall it was around 8% of children that had a concerning score on the SDQ overall. Parents most frequently indicated issues with peer behaviours. And it goes up and down a bit across the four different years but none of the differences were statistically significant and therefore I decided to combine the three years that I had data for at the time. So 2012-2013 to 2015-2016 together again to have a big enough sample to have a robust findings.
So what did we find? We found that on average across the three years around 8% of children had a concerning score on the SDQ. Which is an estimated 57,000 in a year. And out of 57,000 children 7% had a borderline score on the on the total SDQ scale. So if we look at the concerning end of the SDQ, which is what I will be referring to in the rest of the presentation, we found that more boys and girls had issues. So boys were one and a half times more likely to have a total score of concern. Children living in the most deprived quintile of neighbourhood deprivation were three times more likely to have a total score of concern and Maori children are 1.8 times more likely. We also found that 10 to 14 year olds were 1.3 times more likely than five to nine year old children to have that concerning score. There was no significant difference on the overall scale for Pacific children compared to non-Pacific children. But I'll show later that for
some of the subscales, so the sub areas that we looked at, there were differences between Pacific and non-Pacific children. And Asian children were less likely to have a total score of concern compared to non-Asian children. Here I've split down the results by age groups. So the blue bars are preschool children, three to four years. Orange is five to nine years and the grey is 10 to 14 year olds.
It's important to note that the questionnaire for preschool children is slightly different from the one that's used for school-aged children, just to make sure that the behaviours that they ask about are appropriate for the age, because obviously they can't ask about things that are more school related behaviours because the children are not going to school yet. Particularly for a conduct problem scale, that's the only sub-scale actually, there's two questions that are different for the three and four year olds. And they also have determined different thresholds to see which children have a concerning score or not for the preschool children compared to school age children.
So what we can see is that hyperactivity issues go up with age, more 10 to 14 year old children had difficulties in that area compared to three and four year olds. For conduct problems we didn't see a significant age trend. Emotional symptoms seem to start higher and drop down and then climb up again for 10 to 14 year olds. But the thresholds for three and four year olds was different. And if we look at the main score on the sub-scale we actually see that the difficulties go up with age. And no significant trend for peer problems.
So I talk about children who fall above or below the thresholds for concerning scores in the SDQ. But I think it's very important to keep in mind that it's actually a distribution and a child that falls just above the cutoff score or the threshold is not necessarily going to be any different from a child that falls just below it. And as you can see here there's a scale from 0 to 10 for the hyperactivity sub-scale. And the majority of children have very few difficulties. So anywhere on the end(?) of zero means that there are very few difficulties. What we saw was that hyperactivity issues went up with age. If we looked at children falling above the threshold. But if we look at the distribution we can actually see that for three and four year old children there were a lot fewer parents who indicated that there were no issues with hyperactivity whatsoever. You can see on the far left it's around 8% for three and four year olds. So 8% of parents didn't indicate any concern with hyperactivity, while for 10 and 14 year olds that was around 14%. However on the severe end of difficulty, so close to the 10, there were fewer parents of preschool children indicating concerns. And you can see a bit of a blip and in the middle there for the blue, so the three and four year olds, indicating that three and four year olds were more likely to have at least some degree of difficulties with hyperactivity. And what we can't tell from this data is are these children on a path to more severe difficulties or is this related to their age. Is it something they grow out of? Is it a phase? And in the literature there seems to be evidence going either way and I think there's more research needed looking at SDQ longitudinally to see how things change over time.
Also something to keep in mind is that a lot of children had issues in overlapping areas of behaviour. Some children had issues only in one area. So, for example, 6.9% of the parents indicated issues with peer problems and not with any of the other areas of behaviour that were looked at. But 0.7% of parents indicated issues for their particular child in all four areas of behaviour. So we see different patterns of the difficulties that children experience. But overall more than one in four children experience difficulties in at least one of the four areas assessed. It doesn't mean that they all had a total score, so when we combine it all together, of concern, the parents indicated that there was some difficulties in at least one of the areas.
To show you that the SDQ is actually picking up something I looked at how the results of the SDQ are related to doctor diagnosed issues with mental health or development. Obviously the numbers are going to be really small because not many children are diagnosed already with depression. I looked at five to 14 year olds, just to make sure that -- in 0 to 4 year olds there's very few children diagnosed with any of these conditions. In the overall New Zealand child population 0.8% of children were diagnosed by a doctor with depression, but if we look at children who had a concerning score in the SDQ this was 5.3%. Anxiety overall in New Zealand 3.1% and we had a concerning SDQ score this was 14.6%. And in the table on the right you can see how much more likely children with a concerning SDQ were to be diagnosed with any of these conditions. So children aged 5 to 14 with a concerning score on the SDQ were 18 times as likely, for example, to be diagnosed with ADHD by a doctor. Keeping in mind that the numbers are small here because very few children already have a diagnosis in young ages.
When we look at different sub-populations in New Zealand we see quite a bit of difference in the rate of difficulties that we can see based on the SDQ. The lines here are 10%, which is what the SDQ originally was set up to identify as concerning and 20% for borderline.
8%, as I said, of New Zealand children had a concerning score and you can see the blue, the concerning, for the overall New Zealand population in the left hand corner was all pretty close to the 10% that we expected to see, but we identified more peer problems than the 10% that the threshold will set up to identify. And more peer problems were seen across the four ethnic groups or three ethnic groups.
When we look at it by neighbourhood deprivation we can see a gradient for all the different sub-scales. So the total scale on the left going to conduct problems on the right. And on the left is the lowest bars of quintile 1 and dark blue on the right are quintile 5.
Just looking at the numbers. So when we compare quintile 5 to quintile 1 on the total SDQ we find that children living in the most deprived neighbourhoods were three times as likely to have a concerning score on the SDQ compared to children living in the least deprived areas. For peer problems this was two and a half times and for conduct problems 2.3 times.
The New Zealand health survey also asks parents about whether they have any stress related to parenting. One of the questions they ask is, "In general how well do you feel you're coping with the day to day demands of raising children?" This is about any children they have, not about the particular child that they completed the SDQ for. But what we can see is that parents with a child with a concerning SDQ were more likely to indicate that they had issues with coping with the demands of raising children. So the blue bars are parents who had a child with no concern on the SDQ and in orange are the ones who indicated that they did have concerns about their child's behaviour on the SDQ. And on the right hand we see not coping very well and not very well at all. And the bar is bigger for the orange for the parents who indicated concerns on the SDQ, indicating that they were coping less well and this was statistically significant for all comparisons other than for coping well where the rate was fairly similar.
Another question over the past month, "How often have you felt that your child was much harder to care for than most children the same age?" Here it was about a particular child that the SDQ was completed for and we see the same pattern. More parents with a child with a concerning SDQ indicating that they felt like their child was harder to care for and fewer indicating that they never thought that they felt their child was harder to care for.
Same question again, "How often have you felt that your child does things that really bother you?" More parents of children with a concerning SDQ indicated that they felt like their child did things that bother them. "How often have you felt angry?" Again, the same results as identifying the same pattern for all these items. And they were all statistically significant. What is interesting is also that parents with a child with a concerning SDQ were more likely to indicate that they had no one to turn to for day to day support raising children.
More recently I've been doing work looking at household food insecurity. So there's another questionnaire that asks about whether the household has the right amount and the appropriate access to food and so the blue bars here showed households that were moderately to severely food insecure. So they were lacking access or quality of food in the household and may not be the particular child because some evidence shows that it's often the parents who limit their intake while they provide for their children first. And the orange is the food secure group. And what we can see here is that food insecure households, the children living in those households were much more likely to have concerns on the SDQ. For the total score, so on the left and for all the four other sub-scales of the SDQ as well and the differences were all statistically significant. So I think this is really showing that the SDQ is picking up something, you know, it's picking up issues that the child may experience and maybe picking up broader issues that are experienced in the household. Thank you.
End of transcript.
Contribution of Resilience in Children’s Learning
Jason Timmins is Manager of Insights at the Education Review Office (ERO) and uses data to measure the performance of the education sector, school and early learning services.
Jason has researched a wide range of social and economic policy topics, including child poverty, minimum wage, skill shortages, transitions off a benefit and transience.
His presentation involved sharing the findings of recent research undertaken by ERO, Contribution of Resilience in Children’s Learning.
Contribution of Resilience in Children’s Learning - video transcript
Jason Timmins - Manager of Insights at the Education Review Office (ERO):
Today we're going to be talking about not giving up. So giving up's really easy. I've done it, I'm sure some of you have done it in this room. You know, if something's just too hard being able to give up and walk away, it can be quite nice. But a lot of the cases, and I'm sure it's absolutely true in this room, that sometimes, you know, we don't give up and we don't want to give up. You know, it's something important and we're going to keep trying. And sometimes we don't give up because we love what we're doing, you know. So my son loves playing video games and whenever I pop my head in, you know, just to see what he's playing, he dies a lot or exits the game, I think is the term we might use, but he keeps going, you know, he just sees that as a mistake that he's made and he's going to get round that and he keeps playing.
Sometimes we don't give up because we know that what we're doing is really important or that we're going to really enjoy the achievement of doing that task. So some of you who know me know that I analyse a lot of data I often use computer programming to do that analysis. I don't like computer programming, I find it really frustrating. But what I do like are the results and the key findings and the information that I get out of that process that I get to share with everybody in a seminar like today. And so for this presentation today what we're interested in is really about trying to understand, in a school, about what is it about the children who keep trying and try and understand about the kids who just seem to give up a bit too easily or when things get hard. And what we're going to explore is whether, you know, the -- if children have more resilience or skills to help them overcome challenges can that help us understand some of the differences we see in the level of effort between different types of children in schools.
This story is -- so the reason why we care about this is because there's good evidence to show that children that persevere and try hard in school do well in school they get good grades. So when I was at school that was an A. In the NCA that's getting an endorsement. And importantly, what we are seeing is that doing well in school is obviously important for later life. Kids that do well in school do well in education after school, tertiary, they do well in their careers. And something that we'll touch on at the end of this, the exciting thing is, is that there might be things we can do to help build the resilience of the kids. Which I'm hopefully going to show could be a way of helping them achieve better at school.
The second part of my story is that there were a -- I'm going to talk about a set of schools in the North Island, I'm not going to name them, because while they were happy for me to use their data they didn't, for good reasons, want to be named because it's their data. So I just want to acknowledge them for allowing us to share their data and allowing me to use in this presentation today.
And the reason why we have this set of schools is that they were noticing stuff in their schools around the children who were trying hard not giving up and in particular they were also noting they were getting some new students who found it difficult or find it difficult to overcome challenges at schools. One of the teachers said to me is that they go to pieces. That's how they described it, they just don't know what to do when things get a bit hard. And also another thing they also said is that there were some kids who were turning up to school, so attendance wasn't a problem, they were coming along, but they weren't really engaged when they were at school. They didn't take their academic work seriously and they didn't really see much point in doing it.
Now some things that might be -- mean they lack a bit of resilience and are unable to get, you know, to achieve when things get a bit harder.
And so I sent these slides in last week and I would've changed them around a little bit, but this is just reinforcing my previous point which is that these resilience skills or non-cognitive skills, which people often talk about, you know, working hard, persevering is really important in doing well at school. And from a kind of a practice point of view in a classroom, there might be a danger that kids who lack perseverance and effort it might be because of lacking resilience or these non-cognitive skills, but it might also be misdiagnosed of just lacking motivation or not caring. Maybe the school thinks it's something that's happening from outside the school that's driving that and there's nothing they can do. Whereas actually in fact it might be a lack of resilience, which I'm going to hopefully show, might be able to be changed.
So the great thing was was that these schools identified these kind of problems or issues with their children. And so they decided to actually ask them, and so they went -- Aero(?) was fortunate enough to be able to work alongside them and help them create a survey to ask some of the kids around these sort of resilience or non-cognitive factors, which meant that we could collect this information and for today's presentation I've been able to share that with you.
So this is what I'm going to talk about today, I'll set up the research or the kind of questions I'm going to tackle in this presentation and we'll have a look at the link between these non-cognitive or resilience factors and their link to achievement. I've got a bit of a model to help me organize that. I'll talk about the survey a little bit and how we collected the data. I'll then take you through some of our key findings and then we'll finish with a summary and then I've got a sort of a "So what" to start our discussion about what this might mean for policy and practice in the education sector to think about.
So just so we kind of all get on same page in terms of when I'm using these terms like non-cognitive skills or resilience, so the way to think about this or the way I think about this is that cognitive skills, that tends to be the stuff that you learn at school. In terms of the content, you learn how to think, you learn how to use language, symbols and texts and you learn content knowledge, you know, you learn about New Zealand, you learn about different topics, whatever it might be. I've taken these actually from the New Zealand -- I'm going to get this wrong, it's in my notes, but the core competencies - that's what I'm looking for, which come out the curriculum.
And then the non-cognitive skills, the way I think about this, this is how kids learn. And so these are the skills that they have that helps them learn and this is obviously another important part of school. So these might include things like relating to others, managing themselves, participating and contributing in class and study skills, help seeking or asking for help, I think is the way I describe that one. And it's these non-cognitive factors or resilience factors that we're kind of interested in for this talk, both are important and what we're seeing is that there's been a lot of focus on cognitive skills and there's increasing literature and evidence around the importance as well of the non-cognitive skills. So here's a model to help us think about how these factors link through to academic achievement or performance in this one. There's a really nice literature review by Farrington Attell(?) 2012 which does a nice job of just linking through the literature and then also goes on to summarize the practice stuff. So if you're interested I'd recommend that as a read. So we start at the bottom in the green box, we've got our academic performance, however that's measured and then what they do is that they say that's influenced by academic behaviour. So that's actually doing the work, turning up to school, doing the homework if it's set, participating in class. And then what's linked to that in the orange box is this perseverance. So this is trying hard. So in order for those academic behaviours to happen kids need to be trying hard in the class. And then you can see there's some other factors there, there's some social skills as well. And then linking into the perseverance we've got these learning strategies. So how do you -- if you get stuck how do you get past that. I go for a walk sometimes to try and clear my head. There'll be other strategies that people use to do that. They might ask a friend to get some help. And then at the top in this this kind of red bar is this academic mindset, and the way that I describe that is that, you know, children -- an academic mindset is -- a child who has one is a child who enjoys being at school, it's a safe environment for them. But they also know the importance of being at school and they also are confident that if they try hard or if they do the work they'll get better and they'll be able to achieve it. So it's kind of that drive for being at school and taking part in the work. They might also have some have -- they also might have the view that, you know, what they're doing now is important for their later life, that, you know, doing well at school will mean that they might have more success in whatever they do later in life.
And so I'll take you through, what we're going to have a look at is what I'm particularly interested in here is in some of these resilience factors or non-cognitive factors around academic mindsets and learning strategies about how, you know, do -- look at our data, do we see a link between those and kids putting more effort in. As part of the survey we weren't able to collect information about academic performance. So we're going to make an assumption here that kids who tend to be trying harder, hopefully, according to this model and some of the evidence, will do better at school. So in our survey -- and we'll go into a bit more -- I'll give you a bit more of a breakdown around the survey in a moment. But just to help shape up this model, so we collected some factors that I'm going to call around resilience. These were round belong, so feeling that they -- that children are part of the school and a growth mindset. So the importance of working hard, knowing they can get smarter if they study, and these are kind of our academic mindset factors. And we also have some learning strategy factors which in the survey were called self-efficacy. So these are just strategies for when you get stuck. It might be thinking about the problems slightly differently, asking a friend, those kind of ones, and I'll give you some examples of the questions we asked the kids. And then this presentation, our kind of outcome variable, is around -- in the survey we called it "grit" and this is about not giving up and always finishing the work, even if it's hard. And that links back to this model in terms of that's the perseverance. So we're looking at the relationship between the red boxes there and the blue box and seeing where the kids who seem to be more resilient in terms of belonging, growth mindset and self-efficacy tended to have high levels of grit, more perseverance.
So now I've kind of translated it back to that model I took from Farrington just as so -- so what we're looking at today is that -- we have the red boxes and the blue box there and the green arrows and we're making some assumptions about, you know, we're just using the literature to assume that they will link through to academic performance.
One important thing I didn't add into this slide which I should have done, you will have noticed from the first model there is a feedback loop from academic performance back into that academic mindset at the top. And we'll talk a little bit about that more there. But it kind of suggests that kids who have early success at school, that's going to reinforce some of these behaviours that might help them to continue to succeed. And so I think that's just an important side note to take, is that, you know, it's not just about getting those factors in place, it's also about making sure kids get some early runs on the board, if you like, at school to encourage them that they can learn, that they can get better.
So these are our research questions. The key question I want to try and do today is can disparities in grit between children be explained by differences in our resilience factors. And in order to answer that question we're going to have a look at differences between disparities and the level of grit between children, you're going to see some similarities here between my findings and Linda's findings. You're going to see that boys, Maori children and older children have lower levels of grit than females, non-Maori children and younger children. So there's some similar disparities to what Linda found in her relationship -- in her study. We'll also look at the relationship between grit and resilience and what I'm going to show there is the children who seem -- who have more of these resilience factors have higher levels of grit, and then I'm hopefully going to convince you that if we control for that levels of resilience that some of the differences between boys and girls, for example, go away. In other words high resilient boys and high resilient girls have similar levels of grit. And we see the same for low resilient boys and girls. So that's kind of the findings.
The data that we collected, so we used an online survey. It was run in these schools in the North Island in the Kohuiarko(?) Community of Learning. The great thing about surveying children is that they're all in the class and there's a teacher asking them to fill out the survey. And so what that means is that you get 100% response rates from a class. And if that school, which it did largely in our study, and if the primary and intermediate schools run it in most classes you get response rates, so I had 2,500 responses and we had about 80% response rate for year 4 to 8 students across all of the schools. A slightly lower response rate, so only a third of year 9 to 11 students. So we'll be a bit more cautious about interpreting that information. Unfortunately I haven't done any calculations on errors on those estimates, like you saw with Linda's presentation, so we'll just be a bit more cautious in how we talk about those.
I did get some responses from year 12 and 13 students but the numbers were too low so I've exclude them for this analysis. We asked these kids about 40 questions and they took about 10 minutes to complete them. We also asked them as part of the survey, to make it a bit more interesting, we also just asked them some open ended questions about what they liked about school and what they didn't like about school. They loved those questions and we got some great answers. And much to the -- interestingly the teachers were quite nervous about those questions. They thought we wouldn't get very interesting information but actually -- in one school, for example, the feedback we got from what they'd like to have more in their school, they said wastepaper or bins and better playground equipment. And when we showed that to the teachers they kind of agreed that, yeah, there probably isn't enough wastepaper bins and their playground equipment was a bit tired and needs to be updated. So you know they -- it's not as if the kids were asking for rocket ships or you know or trips abroad.
So that's the survey. So I won't go through too much detail but I'll just give you a bit of a sense of the kind of questions we asked. So what we asked the children is we asked whether they strongly disagreed, disagreed, agreed or strongly agreed to a number of statements. And so we had a whole bunch of questions about -- there's about a dozen questions in each of these. So we asked kids in the belonging questions we asked them, you know, can they be themselves -- I can be myself a school. I feel included, I can talk to my teachers, my teachers understand me. So some of that kind of emotional response to being at school. In the self-efficacy, this is more around those kind of learning strategies and knowing what to do if you get stuck, I like working with others, mistakes help me learn, that's my son and his video games, and I know what to do when I have a problem. One of the cool things I was -- the cool things about doing these surveys if you have children is that you can try the questions out on them and see what they say. But, you know, for example, if I asked my kids about what you do when you get stuck, the first thing they say is, "I ask my friend at my table". So that's their strategy. A growth mindset. And so this is about that kind of -- the importance of doing the work and the confidence that by working hard they can get better. So we had questions in there, for example, "I know I can become smarter. I feel positive about my future. I learned from my mistakes. I get to do interesting activities at school". And then finally we had some -- so they're our kind of resilience type questions. And then finally we had some questions around the grit, the perseverance, the one -- the outcome variable we're kind of interested in and that says, "I want to be the best at what I do. I always finish whatever I begin. I don't give up easily. I am a hard worker". Just a quick comment, so these surveys are becoming quite popular and there's quite good evidence now that they do, you know, are quite a good predictor of kind of school outcomes, if you like, or children outcomes in terms of learning. I guess when I was listening to Linda's talk I was kind of interested in whether some of the stuff -- so she's -- we're kind of a few years ahead of some of Linda's younger people. I was just wondering about those kids at those much younger ages, whether there's a relationship between some of the stuff that Linda's collecting and some of these findings when we get into the school system. I think there's clearly an overlap in terms of some of those questions. The other thing about these is that -- so one concern about these is I'm going to pool across schools, partly because I want to disguise the schools. There is a little bit of a concern about doing that because children might respond to these questions based on who's around them. If they're saying, "I am a hard worker" they might take that as a reference based on who's in the classroom, for example.
So one of the advice we gave to the schools when they were doing that is to be careful about looking across their whole community of learning because some -- there might be variations between schools, there also might be variation by age as well and we'll have a look at some of that as well. Having said that though, I pooled them all across. So that's a bit of caveat on using that.
So here's some findings. So what I've done is that these are all the questions we asked in the grit module, if you like, and what I've done is I've separately presented them for males who are the dark blue triangles and females who are the light blue circles. And so what I've done here as I've got the proportion of students who either agreed or strongly agreed to each of these questions. So we start at the top with I want to be the best about 90% of the kids - so these are year 4 to year 11 - say that they want to be the best. That's great. That's very positive. When we start to look at actually what do they do in terms of perseverance and grit we start to see some differences. So, for example, the third question down, "I get excited about new work". We see that 70% of boys agreed or strongly agree to that statement. 80% of girls did. "I always finish on time" and "I always finish on time even if it takes a long time" -- sorry, "I always finish my work. I always finish my work even if takes a long time to complete". Again we see some differences: boys were less likely to agree with that statement. We see some differences between boys and girls, overall boys might lack a bit -- might have a little bit less grit than girls. Which is kind of the finding to take from that one. So a second difference. I just looked at ethnicity, so these are children who we identified as being either Māori, which is your green circle. New Zealand European, which is your blue square, or Asian which is your red triangle. So again if we look at "I want to be the best". All three groups said -- about 90% of them said, "I want to be the best". When it came to those questions about finishing work, getting excited about new work, achieving a difficult goal, we started to see that Māori were less likely to agree -- Māori children were less likely to agree with those questions. So there's some difference there.
And then finally I looked at just children who were in primary school, so we're interviewing -- in primary schools we're interviewing children from year 4 to year 6 which is about ages 8 to 10. And then for secondary I've put -- these are kids from year 7 to a year 11 which is age 11 to 16. I hope I've got that right. And so again we see a similar pattern. We're actually seeing that secondary school children seem to be less likely to agree about finishing their work and not giving up easily. So similar to Māori children and to boys, a similar kind of pattern. So we do see some differences in the level of grit across children within this school community. Just as an aside, we also see a bit of a fade irrespective of what kind of children we're talking to. So here I've just plotted the proportion of children who agree with all of the -- agree or strongly agree with all the grit questions I've kind of aggregated across all of them. The red line with the circle are female -- are children who are female and New Zealand European, the dash line with a blue square are male children and the darker blue line with triangles are Māori children. And you can see here that in year 4 between 80-90% of those groups agreed or strongly agreed with most of those grit questions, by the time we get to year 11 it's below 80%. So my numbers are a bit small for 9, 10, 11, but there seems to be a bit of a fade over time.
What's even more interesting is that we see this irrespective of the questions we asked the children. So we see this in terms of the grit, which I've just shown you. But we also see this in terms of belonging, self-efficacy, the learning strategies and growth mindset. So our kind of resilience factors that we're interested in.
So just for example, if we look at belonging, which is the red line with the circles, again between 85% and 90% of them say they feel like they belong at their school. By the time they get to the end of high school, or at least a compulsory year 11, it's dropped below 60%. And that's something you see in the international literature that engagement of children at school tends to fall with age.
And one way of thinking about that is that maybe for some children that feedback mechanism isn't working for them, which is that they don't do well at school at the beginning of their school career and that just feeds into this loss of engagement. They kind of -- that growth mindset gets -- the academic mindset, those resilience factors, get undermined because they're just not achieving at school. Whereas for some children hopefully it gets reinforced and they still do well.
So we've got some differences in grit across our children and so the next question I want to have a look at is whether the resilience factors controlling for that helps us understand some of the gaps between boys and girls, Māori and non-Māori and also -- oh they were just the two I'm to look at.
So on this chart the first thing I want you to look at is I just want you to look at the solid lines and the dash lines. So the solid lines are children who have high resilience, so I've taken the children -- I've basically split the children into two groups, those with the highest, who are more likely to respond agree or strongly agree with the resilience questions and those who are less likely to agree or strongly agree with those resilience questions around belonging, self-efficacy and a growth mindset. So you can see that high resilient children, and then what I've done is I've plotted that against their responses to the grit questions. So high resilient children are more likely to strongly agree or disagree -- sorry, strongly to agree or strongly agree with the grit questions. They seem to have more grit, higher levels of grit, whereas the low resilience children have less levels of grit.
Then what I've done is I've plotted them separately for males and females, so the males are the blues -- the dark blue lines with the triangles and the females are the light blue lines with the circles. I guess what's reassuring to see is that when we look at -- when we compare particularly the younger ages, say years 4 to 7, so your primary school ages, that higher resilient males and females have similar levels of grit. So that kind of difference that we saw before doesn't seem to be there. It gets a bit messy after that, partly because I have low numbers, but at least we can say that high resilient boys have higher levels of grit than low resilient boys. The pattern for low resilience is a bit more muddled, but there is that difference for boys and for females -- for males and females. We've just done -- I've just done a similar graphic analysis for looking between Māori and New Zealand European children. And again, we see a similar pattern. So particularly at the younger ages we see that Māori children have -- high resilient Māori children have similar levels of grit to New Zealand European children. High resilient New Zealand European children. And we see the same pattern for low resilience. So again we can say that the Māori who are resilient tend to have much higher levels of grit, they're going to persevere, they're going to try harder. And so we hope that that will also mean they do better at school in the future than low resilient children. So resilience seems to be explaining some of the differences in the perseverance, the grit levels of children within these school communities.
So just to summarize. So I'm going to start with the bottom bullet point first and then we'll just remind ourselves about the other one. So, I think there's some evidence, at least from the simple analysis I've done here, that these resilience factors, these non-cognitive factors, may explain some of the difference in grit between boys and girls and Māori and non-Māori children that we observe across all of them, in terms of perseverance. It seems to be particularly at those younger ages, and at the older ages it gets a little bit more -- it's less clear. So some further analysis would be necessary, but it's also true that when we look at high resilience boys they're more likely to demonstrate grit than low resilience boys. So there is that relationship between resilience and grit and association. And so just to remind you of the other findings. So we found that older children, boys and Māori children are less likely agree with questions around grit, to demonstrate grit. Grit and resilience levels appear to decline with age. And so that's that kind of feedback loop, so that, you know, maybe trying to address that might prevent some of that happening. And resilient children are more likely agree that they try hard and persevere at school or demonstrate behaviours of perseverance.
So they're my key findings. So the policy question or the practice question is: well can we -- you know, if resilience does turn out - and there's other evidence to suggest that it is - important, these non-cognitive factors, they do turnout to be important can we make children more resilient?
So interestingly the evidence seems to suggest that it's hard to change academic grit and perseverance. It's hard to give kids more grit to make them try harder. I've seen some studies that tried to reward, you know, monetary rewards and things like that. But the evidence seems to say that's quite a hard behaviour to change directly without addressing academic mindset and effective learning strategies.
So that might be where you could focus. And the evidence seems to suggest that the academic mindset is something that you can change in schools. There are some successful trials that seem to have achieved that. And of course schools are always teaching learning strategies and that's something that fits very neatly into the work that they already do.
And I guess my finishing point is that that developing resilience -- so if schools are potentially a good opportunity for developing resilience, well this is great for their school achievement because it's probably going to go up, but it's also great for their later life achievement in terms of whatever they do in their careers or in tertiary education.
So it's kind of an early -- potentially an early intervention that could be thought about that not only will help kids achieve at school, which will also lead hopefully to a great life, but will also be skills that they can use later on in life as well. That's all for me.
End of transcript.
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Social and Emotional Wellbeing of the New Zealand Child Population
Linda Pannekoek is a Senior Advisor and researcher at the Ministry of Health. Her work largely focusses on child health, development and wellbeing. In this presentation, Linda gave a short background on her work using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) based on data from the New Zealand Health Survey.
The results from the SDQ in the Health Survey provide nationally representative estimates of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties for children aged 3–14 years.