Middle Years Development Instrument

What is the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI)?

Experiences in the middle years, ages 6 to 12, have critical and long lasting effects and are a powerful predictor of adolescent adjustment and success.  It is important to understand and have information on how children are doing at this stage of their development.

The Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) is a self-report questionnaire completed by children in Grade 4 and Grade 7. Both the  Grade 4 questionnaire and the Grade 7 questionnaire include questions related to the five areas of development that are strongly linked to well-being, health and academic achievement.

Looking at Populations Not Individuals

The MDI is a population-level research tool. This means it measures developmental change or trends in populations of children.  Although individual students complete the questionnaire, the results are not used to evaluate individual children.

What are the Benefits of the MDI?

The MDI is a unique tool that allows us to hear children’s voices and so taps into areas that have great significance in children’s lives that are not typically evaluated in other assessments.

Rather than evaluating academic progress, the MDI gives children a voice, an opportunity to communicate to adults in schools and communities about what their experiences are inside and outside of school. In this regard, the MDI has great potential to provide educators, parents, researchers, and policy makers with much needed information about the psychological and social worlds of children during middle childhood. Such information can help schools, program planners, and community members find ways to create environments that help children in their community thrive.

How are MDI data used?

HELP creates maps, graphics and reports that summarize MDI results. Communities, schools, and governments use the MDI data to inform their work. Learning how children are currently faring across the province means that communities, schools and governments are able to tailor supports and services for families and children where and when they are needed.

Who uses MDI data?

Schools and neighbourhoods use the information included in MDI reports to initiate conversations about how the needs of children in their middle years can be better addressed.

Researchers use the data to dig deeper into important questions about the genetic, biological, and social determinants of children’s health and development. Their research, in turn, helps to inform policy and program development.

Government, policy-makers, and not-for-profit organizations use the maps and data that come from the MDI questionnaire to plan economic investments, policy changes and program development.

How the MDI was Developed

The foundation for the Middle Years Development Instrument was laid in 2006 when a UBC research team led by Dr. Kim Schonert-Reichl, in collaboration with the United Way of the Lower Mainland, completed a study of over 1,400 children in 8 school districts in Metro Vancouver.  This study asked children to complete a daily diary of their activities, and to answer a questionnaire about their well-being. The results of this study have been recorded in a report called Middle Childhood Inside and Out: The Psychological and Social Worlds of Canadian Children Ages 9-12. The report is available as both a Full Report and Summary

The MDI was created, in part, from this early pilot questionnaire used in 2006.  Following that study, a small Technical Committee of principal investigators from UBC, graduate students, and staff from both the Vancouver School Board and United Way set to work on a revised survey that could be used at a population level. Question items were assembled and considered and taken from surveys previously used and validated in research with children. Questions with a high degree of reliability were selected within five broad categories: Social and Emotional Development; Connectedness; School Experiences; Physical Health and Well-Being; and Constructive Use of Time. Each potential survey question was subjected to scrutiny based on factor analysis and its relevance to the major categories established by the Technical Committee. Considerable input was provided also by children, parents, teachers and community groups working with children in their middle years. Prior to district-wide implementation, the MDI underwent three pilot studies in Vancouver to test its reliability and validity. Following each pilot study, the tool was strengthened and streamlined into its current form. The tool is now being licensed.