Childhood Experiences Questionnaire

What is the Childhood Experiences Questionnaire?

The Childhood Experiences Questionnaire (CHEQ), a population-level research tool, is designed to help gather information in specific areas related to the experiences of children in British Columbia from birth to Kindergarten entry. Parents fill out the questionnaire at the beginning of the school year.  Parents are asked about children’s early experiences – prior to school entry – related to areas of early child development that matter for children’s long-term developmental success. These include the following experiences:

Why measure early childhood experiences?

The Early Development Instrument (EDI)  has been implemented in Kindergarten classrooms around the province since 2000. The EDI provides data on the core areas – or domains – of child development that are known to be good predictors of adult health, education and social outcomes. Experiences determine development. Because of the EDI, we recognize there are significant differences in children’s development at school entry across BC. However, we do not yet understand the specific nature of these early experiences or how they have contributed to children’s development in the early years.

Why did we develop this new questionnaire?

To date, there is no population-level mechanism for measuring the quality and nature of children’s experiences in their early environments. Therefore, we are missing essential information to help us appropriately support the precursors to healthy development at a population level. The CHeq was developed in 2013 to fill the gap in knowledge related to children’s early experiences. It is a companion document to the EDI. Together the knowledge gained from understanding children’s early experiences with the CHEQ, and understanding their development across important developmental domains with the EDI, helps us to enrich the picture of childhood development in BC.   

Who benefits from the CHEQ?

The CHEQ was developed by an interdisciplinary research team of experts in children’s developmental outcomes, in collaboration with teachers, administrators and community stakeholders from across British Columbia. In developing the questionnaire together with teachers, we have created an augmented Kindergarten intake form that supplements the information teachers already collect to enhance their understanding of the children in their classrooms. Teachers and school administrators can use this information to:

  1. Aid in completing the EDI for students in the early winter;
  2. Start discussions with parents to address the needs of their children and families;
  3. Understand and build upon the early experiences of each child. This allows teachers to better support children’s learning needs and help them progress through the year; and
  4. Understand the collective experiences of the children entering classrooms in BC and be better prepared to build a relevant learning environment for the class as a whole.

Community stakeholders can use information from the CHEQ at a population level to:

  1. To support planning and decision-making at a neighbourhood and school district level;
  2. Learn more about the influences of early experiences shaped by the family and community context; and
  3. Identify opportunities and support collaborative planning and activities with schools.

Parents and Families can:

  1. Learn more about influences of early experiences shaped by the family and community context;
  2. Increase awareness of school expectations for children and families for teaching and learning;
  3. Reflect on opportunities and challenges faced by families in their specific communities; and
  4. Contribute to important, population-level research that will increase understanding of children’s early experiences across the province. 

How are the data used?

Teachers typically collect intake information on each child in their class and retain this information for classroom purposes.  As the CHEQ is an augmented version of the teacher intake form, it is copied and retained by the teacher for classroom purposes.  Combined classroom data is tabulated and shared with the participating schools in the form of a school report. Community reports will be made available with broader administration of the CHEQ.  In the reports, connections are made between early life experiences and long-term learning outcomes.  It is our goal to provide comprehensive reports that assist schools and communities to learn about children’s early experiences in the community and family contexts to support children to come to school ready to learn. Data from the CHEQ will be linked to children’s EDI data and, over time, linked to the Grade 4 and Grade 7 Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) data.  By linking the data we can illustrate a long-term trajectory of development.

What does the CHEQ measure?

Physical Health & Wellness

The impact of physical health and wellness on quality of life and the health of society in general is significant. For example, we have long known that having a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast are important for effectively participating in school each day.

On the CHEQ, parents are asked about children’s physical health and wellness in the areas of overall health, daily physical activities, routine health care check-ups, nutrition and sleep habits.

 

Early Learning and Care

Most children in BC experience some form of regular non-parental care arrangements, which in turn provide important influences on their overall development. For many parents, finding high quality, accessible and affordable early learning and care is one of the major challenges in a family’s life.

On the CHEQ, parents are asked about their child’s early learning and care experiences related to non-parental arrangements and challenges experienced when looking for care.  They are also asked about their child’s experience with intervention programs and supports.

 

Early Language and Literacies

Early multiliteracy experiences are critical to a child’s success in school and later in life. Children take their first critical steps toward learning to read and write very early in life, interacting with adults to build upon a strong foundation in their home language(s).  A rich and responsive language environment enhances the development of language and literacy.

On the CHEQ, parents are asked about their child’s early language and literacy experiences both on their own and with others. CHEQ questions ask about children’s experiences with book reading, storytelling, engaging in conversation and pretend play, rhyming, using print, counting and sorting, drawing, painting and more. 

 

Social & Emotional Well-being

Social and emotional competencies (e.g., positive self-esteem, self regulation) are critical for children’s successful development across the life span. Experiences related to positive social and emotional well-being is associated with greater motivation and achievement in school, as well as positive outcomes later in life including post-secondary education, employment, healthy lifestyles, and physical and psychological well-being.

On the CHEQ, parents are asked about their children’s current and past social and emotional functioning and experiences: opportunities for play and socializing, empathy, prosocial behaviour and experiences of stressful life events.

 

Family

Nurturing family experiences are essential for healthy child development. The family is the most important context in which children experience early life. Many families face challenges, including financial constraints and work demands, which may impact their ability to create and sustain a nurturing environment for children in the early years. Understanding these experiences is an essential piece of the puzzle in predicting developmental outcomes.

On the CHEQ we ask parents about their income, occupation and education, time use, opportunities for play and family functioning as well as life satisfaction. Questions related to life satisfaction and socio-economic status are completed in private and used for research purposes only. Teachers and school administrators do not have access to these confidential answers. 

 

Neighbourhood & Community

Neighbourhood connectedness, safety and cohesion influence how families interact with their communities, including whether they are exposing their children to outdoor experiences of play, be they structured or unstructured. Do families have the support networks needed to support raising young children in their communities?

On the CHEQ we ask parents about their perceptions of neighbourhood safety, length of residence, opportunities for children to play in the neighbourhood, social support networks and whether neighbours can be counted on to look after children.

 

How does the CHEQ contribute to HELP’s overall goals?

If we are to improve the health, well-being and competence of our population, we need a comprehensive monitoring platform that will inform communities about how the programs, policies and social environments that we provide for young children combine to support or undermine their development. By creating measures such as the CHEQ, to add to existing measures (EDI and MDI), we can better understand where systematic differences in the prospects for healthy child development are emerging among clearly defined populations of children. Once identified, we can work with our established community and government stakeholders to make changes to the things that are modifiable in our environments to improve the health of populations.

Safeguarding CHEQ data

Safeguarding data is a responsibility HELP takes very seriously. Please visit our Safeguarding Personal Information page to learn more about how HELP safeguards research data and protects the confidentiality and privacy of individuals.