The tyrannies of distance and disadvantage: Factors related to children’s development in regional and disadvantaged areas of Australia

November 2013 | Research papers


Edwards, B., & Baxter, J. (2013). The tyrannies of distance and disadvantage: Children’s development in regional and disadvantaged areas of Australia (Research Report No. 25). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.


External Link

This research report investigates whether children in regional areas experience a "tyranny of distance" or a "tyranny of disadvantage".

In other words, are the gaps in children's development in regional areas compared to children living in the major cities explained by their distance from the major cities (remoteness), or is it because many regional areas are disadvantaged compared to the cities?

The analyses make use of data from Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) to report on differences in family demographic and economic characteristics, parent wellbeing and parenting style, family social capital and access to services, and children's educational activities, and to relate those differences to how children are developing. The study includes children aged from 0-1 up to 8-9 years old.+

The key messages identified by the study included:

  • There is a tyranny of distance or disadvantage but it depends on the outcome examined.
  • There were enduring differences in child cognitive outcomes by whether children live in major city areas compared to regional areas, even after a broad range of other factors are taken into account, indicating that there is a tyranny of distance for cognitive outcomes.
  • There was also a tyranny of disadvantage for child emotional or behavioural problems. The findings suggest that children living in disadvantaged areas experience greater emotional or behavioural problems, even when all other factors are taken into account.
  • Findings from the current study provide the first systematic national information on a broad range of child outcomes, as well as a large number of other variables that are known to shape children's development, which could vary depending on geographic locality or level of disadvantage.


Children and Youth, Families