MDI 101

Frequently Asked Questions about the
Middle Years Development Instrument

The Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) was developed in 2006 by a University of British Columbia (UBC) research team led by Dr. Kim Schonert-Reichl. The MDI was developed to provide a standardized, reliable method of measuring the full complexity of middle childhood well-being using the five dimensions.
The instrument was created through a collaborative process with scientific experts, community members, educators and children. You can read more about the pilot study that led to the MDI, and see the current questionnaire in full.

At a Glance

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    Grade 4 & Grade 7

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    At school via online password-protected survey. Approximately 30-90 minutes to complete.

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    Identifiable information removed. Records are encrypted and stored in a highly secure data storage facility. Parents/guardians and children may opt-out at any time.

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    Data paints a picture of well-being at a group level; aligns with BC Core Competencies

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    Data Sharing

    HELP produces reports for schools, school districts and communities/neighbourhoods in shareable formats.

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    The MDI Technical Guide offers the full list of measures, individual questions and response scales. Check out our References section to review ongoing research publications.

What does the MDI measure?

Social & Emotional Development
Children respond to questions about their current social and emotional functioning in 7 areas: optimism, self-esteem, happiness, empathy, prosocial behaviour, sadness and worries

Physical Health &

Children evaluate their own physical well-being in the areas of overall health including body image, nutrition and sleeping habits.

Children are asked about their experiences of support and connection with the adults in their schools and neighbourhoods, with their parents or guardians at home, and with their peers.

After-School Time
Children are asked about the time they spend engaged in organized activities such as sports, music and art, as well as the time they spend watching TV, doing homework and playing video games.

School Experiences
Children are asked about their school experiences in 4 areas: academic self-concept, school climate, school belonging, and experiences with bullying.


How Does It Work?

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    Participating school districts receive training from HELP to administer the MDI for students in Grade 4 and Grade 7 in one or more of their schools. The MDI is taken on a single day in November or December, and takes approximately 30 to 90 minutes to complete.

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    Students complete the MDI via an online, password-protected form consisting of 77 (for Grade 4) or 101 (for Grade 7) questions designed to measure the five dimensions of well-being. The survey is completely voluntary; parents/guardians and students themselves can opt-out at any time—even during the survey.

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    The collected responses are encrypted and stored in a highly secured data-storage facility at the University of British Columbia. This data is then analyzed and released in reports and data-sharing agreements to researchers, schools, and communities to develop of picture of well-being.
    Any information that could identify the student is removed from the data before sharing.

How is MDI data used?

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    Local, regional, and provincial governments and health agencies use the data and maps provided by the MDI to help allocate resources, support policy changes, and develop new programs to better serve children and their families.

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    Non-profit organizations can use MDI data to support requests for funding and enhance their messaging.

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    Educators and staff at schools and community centres can use MDI data to find new ways of supporting kids in their daily practice, and use the concepts of well-being measured by the MDI in conversations with students and families.

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    School districts and communities can use MDI data to help choose a focus for their change efforts and build collaborative, long-term plans.

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    Researchers make use of MDI data to dig deeper into the genetic, biological, and social determinants
    of children’s health and development, and to investigate the design and efficacy of programs and policy changes.


MDI Shorts:
An introduction to the building blocks of well-being