Professor in the Dept. of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University
Ontario Children's Secretariat Chair in Early Childhood Development
Affiliate Professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia

Dr. Magdalena Janus earned a Ph.D. in behavioural sciences from Cambridge University. Her doctoral research involved studying the nature of relationships among young human and non-human primates. Subsequently, she was a post-doctoral fellow and research associate at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, before joining the McMaster faculty in 2002. Since joining the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University in 1997, Dr. Janus, together with the late Dr. Dan Offord, has been involved in a community-linked project (School Readiness to Learn Project) developing a measure of children’s readiness to learn at school entry, called the Early Development Instrument (EDI). The focus of this research is to provide communities with the information that will inform them about the state of early childhood development and provide a tool for mobilization of resources and monitoring over time. Magdalena and her team have now supported the implementation of the EDI for over 1,500,000 children in Canada, and its adaptation in over a dozen international sites, including developed as well as developing countries, e.g., Australia, USA, Sweden, Brazil, Peru, and Jordan. Magdalena’s research interests include indicators of early child development and their correlates in population and international contexts, social determinants of children’s health, transition to school, with a particular emphasis on children with special needs. She regularly serves as a consultant with various national and international organizations, including the World Bank, WHO, and UNICEF, on the measurement and indicators of early child development. 

Current Activities

Some Active Research Projects:

The Early Development Instrument (EDI) National Research Program: Data on the status of children’s developmental health at school entry are collected using the EDI in 12 of the 13 provinces and territories across Canada which thus far resulted in a database with almost 1.5 million records. This data is used by research, government, community and education partners to explore the developmental status of children, to examine areas of strength and vulnerabilities, make evidence-based decisions regarding early childhood programming, and to inform policy and practice. The EDI is also collected nationally in Australia and has been adapted and translated for use in over 15 languages. In the context of the growing databases on Canadian young children, this collaborative program of research addresses questions on social determinants of health with a national perspective, examining the association between developmental health outcomes and socioeconomic and demographic variables according to local geographic areas where children spent their early years.

Child Health and School Readiness: The emerging results of the population-level approach to child development established by the EDI data collection left clear gaps in understanding the development of children with special needs and more complex educational challenges. Two complementary strands of this research are focused on 1) health antecedents of school readiness and special needs, and 2) the impact of children’s health at school entry on their future academic trajectory.

Are Poverty-Reduction and Early Learning Policy Investments Associated with Improved Early Childhood Outcomes in Canada? Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to have poorer developmental and academic outcomes up to adolescence and beyond. In the last two decades, in an attempt to promote equity, federal and provincial governments have implemented policies targeting income inequality and early learning programs in families with children. The Canadian federal government implemented an improved federal poverty reduction strategy in 2016, the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), in an effort to lift people (particularly children) out of poverty. At the provincial level, most governments have implemented policies focused on publicly-funded early child development and learning programs, specifically full-time kindergarten and kindergarten for 4-year-old children. Our project combines several databases, spanning many years, providing a great opportunity to study the potential impacts of these policies on children’s development. Our approach blends a child development and a policy-research lens to understand how these two sets of policies, implemented at two jurisdictional levels (federal and provincial), may have affected disparities in early childhood development, controlling for contextual variables.

Understanding Educator Positionality in Assessment of Kindergarten Children’s Development: This is a study of kindergarten educators’ perceptions regarding the assessment of items on the Early Development Instrument (EDI), an educator-completed checklist on young children’s skills and behaviours. This study explores the positionality of kindergarten educators with respect to student identity and the completion of the EDI items.


Five Most Impactful Publications:

Janus, M. & Offord, D. (2007). Development and psychometric properties of the Early Development Instrument (EDI): A measure of children’s school readiness. Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science, 39(1), 1-22. 

Janus, M., Ryan, J., Pottruff, M., Reid-Westoby, C., Brownell, M., Bennett, T., Birken, C. S., Duku, E., Ferro, M. A., Forer, B., Georgiades, S., Gorter, J. W., Guhn, M., Maguire, J., Manson, H., Pei, J., Santos, R. Coplan, R. J. (2022) Population-Based Teacher-Rated Assessment of Anxiety Among Canadian Kindergarten Children. Child Psychiatry and Human Development. 

Spadafora, N., Reid-Westoby, C., Pottruff, M. & Janus, M. (2022). Family responsibilities and mental health of kindergarten educators during the first COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Ontario, Canada. Teaching and Teacher Education, 115. 

Halfon, N., Aguilar, E., Stanley, L., Hotez, E., Block, E., & Janus, M. (2020) Equity from the Start: Measuring Disparities in the Health Development of US Kindergartners. Health Affairs, 39 (10) 1702-1709. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00920. 

Minh, A., Muhajarine, N., Janus, M., Brownell, M., & Guhn, M. (2017) A review of neighborhood effects and early child development: How, where, and for whom, do neighborhoods matter? Health & Place, 46, 155-174. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2017.04.012. 

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Research Interests

early development of children with and without developmental challenges, social determinants of children’s health, indicators of child development 

Education, Memberships, Certifications

Ph.D., University of Cambridge, M.Sc., Jagiellonian University

Additional Information


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