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Research Component

Better Beginnings Better started as a provincial research project in 1991.  It was the first long term primary prevention policy research demonstration project of its kind in Canada.

The research was unique because it looked at all aspects of a community for change:  the children, the families, as well as the community as a whole. 

There were two focal cohort ages in the 8 sites Better Beginning s Better Futures sites throughout Ontario.  Our Ottawa site focused on families with children aged 0 to 4 years old.  Some sites focused on children aged 4 to 8 years old.  It was planned for it to be a longitudinal 25 year research program.  The progress of these children, their families and their neighbourhoods were to be followed until the children would be in their mid-twenties.  The research was funded by the Ministries of Health, the Ministry of Education and Training, as well as the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

The research project was led by the Research Coordination Unit at Queens University in Kingston.  Every site had a “site researcher” who was responsible for all research activities in the area.  The Site Researcher was part of a group of university-based researchers who also worked closely with a group in the community.  In South-East Ottawa, the group was named the Research Working Group and was made up of community residents, program staff as well as research staff.

The research component of Better Beginnings was designed to answer three questions:

  • Is the Better Beginnings Better Futures model effective and how large are the program effects?
  • Is the Better Beginnings Better Futures model affordable?
  • What are the structures and processes associated with the program development and results?


Local researchers collected baseline data to describe how 4 year old children and their families were doing.  These children, born in 1988 in the area and who had not participated in any better Beginnings Better Futures programming were, with parental consent, assessed for their social, emotional, behavioural and cognitive development.  The parents themselves were questioned on a wide range of issues including satisfaction with their housing, child care, perception of safety and drug use in their neighborhoods, health, parent-child interaction, levels of stress, food intake of their child, resource usage and social activities.  After Beginnings Better Futures programs were established, children born in 1994/2005 and who lived in the area, were involved in the research for 8 years.  Parental and child information was gathered at 3 months, 18 months, 33 months and 4 years of age.  Description and analysis of the process and cost of the development and delivery of programing can be found in the research reports.

In 2005, a Project Sustainability report was published.  The report provided data on children entering Senior Kindergarten in 2003 who lived in the Better Beginnings neighbourhoods.  Five areas of child development were assessed.  There were:  physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive development; communication skills and general knowledge.  The assessment results show that the objectives set by the South-East Ottawa Better Beginnings Better Futures program were being met.  Children living in the neighbourhoods  had higher scores in all five areas assessed compared to a comparison group of children who do not have Better Beginnings programs and to all but one of the Province of Ontario average scores. 

Numerous documents were printed from the Research Coordination Unit at from Queens University.  Some were specific to each site, including South-East Ottawa Better Beginnings Better Futures, some were documents that grouped findings from all sites.

In 2006, SEOCHC received funding from the Social Development Partnerships Program of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development Canada to conduct research on social inclusion at BBBF.  The Our Place- Learning in Motion Initiative looked at how the Better Beginnings Better futures program has contributed to social inclusion of children and families living in the BBBF community.


For more information on the research component of BBBF see Research and Publications