The Regional Project on Child Development Indicators (PRIDI) is an initiative launched by the Inter-American Development Bank that aims to generate high quality and regionally comparable data on child development.
PRIDI recognizes child development as a holistic and integrated process that encompasses a number of inter-related domains, of which it measures four (cognition, language and communication, socio-emotional, and motor). In addition, PRIDI captures factors associated with ECD, including a number of contextual variables from the home, community, and parents. ( See PRIDI’S Dimensions and Factors Graph ).Each domain and factor finds theoretical and empirical justification in the literature.
PRIDI was created in close collaboration with four participating countries: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru. They are about 8,000 kids in total; 2,000 from each country. On average, they are about 3 and half years old. Half are boys and half are girls. Almost all of them speak Spanish, although there are important populations that speak indigenous languages in Paraguay, Nicaragua and Peru. Most of their mothers have some level of secondary education, and most live in homes with access to basic services.
For many children, the circumstances of their birth and earliest years have lifelong consequences. Children born in adverse circumstances, where poverty and stress limit possibilities and aspirations, fare less well. The odds are stacked against them from the beginning. Chances are that neither school nor any life experience will level the playing field.
Meaningful change requires meaningful action. Gaps in what a child knows and is capable of doing will grow over time absent targeted and high quality interventions incorporating stimulation, early education, health and nutrition. The potential of these interventions, referred to as early childhood development (ECD), has caught the attention of policy makers across the globe. Indeed, ECD occupies an increasingly central place on policy agendas in Latin America and internationally. Research confirms the economic and social returns of ECD and its potential to help level the playing field for all children. Although more and more of this research concentrates on places other than North America or Europe, comparable data and validated tools that allow the monitoring and benchmarking of young children remain scarce in other regions.
PRIDI emerges in this context and with the intent of narrowing this void. It was launched in December of 2009 as the first initiative of its kind. Three pillars oriented its activities: (i) children develop in an integral manner and the data used to assess their development should capture this; (ii) children should be able to achieve basic developmental milestones and competencies before entering school, independent of their race, gender, socioeconomic background, origin, language, or any other circumstance; and (iii) internationally comparable, nationally representative data on child development to inform and guide policies, particularly towards the most disadvantaged children, are largely absent in the region.
PRIDI took its inspiration from regional and international tests, such as the Latin American Laboratory on Education Quality (LLECE and its subsequent iterations, SERCE and TERCE), PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) and PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), among others.
After five years in execution, PRIDI has lived up to its promise. Working together with four countries – Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru – it created, validated and applied a series of new instruments in nationally representative samples.
PRIDI’s instrumentation is mainly conformed by the Engle Scale and the accompanying Survey. The Engle Scale —named in honor and recognition of Patrice Engle who made enormous contributions to PRIDI and ECD internationally until her untimely death—measures three dimensions (cognitive, language and communication and motor development) through direct observation. And the Survey about the child and her home captures the associated factors. The Survey is designed to be administered to the mother or principal caregiver and it includes a scale to evaluate the socio-emotional development of the child ( See Instruments ).
Child development in Latin America is unequal. Inequality in results appears as early as 24 months, PRIDI’s youngest participants, and increases with age. By 59 months, the development of a poor and under-nurtured child will lag by as much as 18 months behind her richer and more nurtured peers. This child will not be able to recognize basic shapes like triangles or squares, count to 20, or understand temporal sequences ( See Blog ).
She will also have gaps in her basic executive functioning and socio-emotional skills, including empathy and autonomy. Notably, however, if this same child, in the same poor household, were to benefit from a nurturing environment, her level of development would rise and would start to approach levels found in children in richer but less nurtured households. The nurturing environment thus appears to mitigate the negative association lower levels of wealth have with the domains of development measured by the Engle Scale ( See Results Report ).
All PRIDI products are regional public goods, freely available on our website. The PRIDI database is a goldmine for research. We invite other countries to access to this information, to apply these instruments, and to add to the data and knowledge initiated by PRIDI. We hope that the information and data it provides will serve governments and practitioners in better identifying and dimensioning high quality ECD programs that will help all kids get off to a good start in life.