Territory Stories

The value of investment in the early years



The value of investment in the early years

Other title

Balancing costs of childhood services


Menzies School of Health Research

Sponsored by

Northern Territory. Department of Education and Training


E-Publications; PublicationNT; E-Books; Early Childhood Series




This publication was produced on behalf of the Department of Education and Training by the Menzies School of Health Research.; Robinson G, Silburn, SR, Arney F, 2011. The value of investment in the early years: Balancing costs of childhood services. Topical paper commissioned for the public consultations on the Northern Territory Early Childhood Plan. Darwin: Northern Territory Government.; Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).




Child development; Early childhood educaton; Northern Territory

Publisher name

Northern Territory Government

Place of publication



Early Childhood Series


No. 4 2011




Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

Copyright owner

Northern Territory Government



Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

2 THE VALUE OF INVESTMENT IN THE EARLY YEARS: BALANCING COSTS OF CHILDHOOD SERVICES Figures 1 & 2: Self control in childhood and later health and social outcomes (Source: Moffat et al, 2011) 4 This study found that even after social class and IQ were taken into account, childhood self control significantly predicted later health status, wealth, substance misuse and crime (Figures 1 & 2). It showed that people who improved in self control after childhood had better adult outcomes on all indices, even after controlling for social class and IQ. These findings are important because they suggest that emotional selfregulation (i.e. self control) is amenable to improvement through intervention, both in childhood and adolescence. Similar associations between self control in childhood and later outcomes remained evident even after children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder were excluded from the analysis. This suggests that there is a broad relationship a gradient between the level of self control in childhood and adult social outcomes beyond the effects of a clinically diagnosable disorder. The strength of the associations evident in early adulthood highlight the potential benefits to society if early preventive action is taken to improve self control and to reduce the incidence of problems linked to poor self control at a population level. Another longitudinal study of children in disadvantaged urban London found that by age 28, the costs to society for individuals with childhood conduct disorder were ten times higher than for children without these behaviour problems. 5 These costs are incurred through their increased utilisation of the criminal justice, health, remedial education and welfare service systems. Disruptive and poorly self-regulated behaviour in childhood is thus a major predictor of how much an individual will cost society. In addition to costs of crime and related adverse outcomes, health and education service use by youth with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and conduct disorder, is extremely expensive. 6 The recent Report of the Board of Inquiry into the Child Protection System in the Northern Territory has also dramatically highlighted the rising costs of inaction in prevention. 7 Statutory child protection services including surveillance, investigation, child removal and placement have become increasingly controversial, in part because they consume vast resources without measurably contributing to prevention of risk and vulnerability. The Report of the Board of Inquiry into the Child Protection System in the Northern Territory recommended significant expansion of preventive services without which the child protection system would be even more overwhelmed.

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