Jessica Ball

Jessica Ball
School of Child and Youth Care

BA (UBC), MA, MPH, PhD (Berkeley)


Jessica Ball is a professor in the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria, Canada.  Dr. Ball has written and taught countless courses on child and youth health and development, including teaching in universities in Canada, the United States, Malaysia, Singapore and Bangladesh.  At UVic, she was a founding faculty member in UVic’s Early Childhood Development Virtual University, teaching initial cohorts of leaders in Africa and the Middle East. She teaches upper level undergraduate courses on mental health and addictive behaviours and graduate courses on social determinants of child development.  Her program of research includes a range of projects centring on cultural and policy contexts of child wellness, early learning, and development. Dr. Ball is the author or co-author of three books and over 120 journal articles, monographs, and book chapters. Dr. Ball has presented at over 300 conferences, symposia, policy roundtables, and workshops in Canada and internationally.  Her achievements have been recognized by awards for teaching, knowledge mobilization, contributions to Indigenous children’s well-being, and research in service of communities.


Dr. Ball completed her graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, including a Doctorate in developmental-clinical psychology, a Master of Public Health in international health planning, and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her undergraduate honours thesis in psychology from the University of British Columbia used a constructivist lens to explore gender differences in children’s perceptions of their social worlds. Her M.A. thesis compared goal attainment among adults receiving four different treatments for depression. Her M.P.H. thesis assessed the prevalence of alcohol use preceding admissions to medical emergency services. Her doctoral research was one of the first studies to use a video-playback procedure to obtain research participants’ accounts of their marital communications and to analyse data using a multi-method, ground theory building approach. During a pre-doctoral internship with San Francisco Mental Health Services, Dr. Ball published one of the first studies in the U.S. on the social problems and needs of homeless high users of psychiatric emergency services, in the Journal of Hospital and Community Psychiatry.

Dr. Ball spent 12 years, from 1984 to 1996, in Southeast Asia, working as a professor for a consortium of US universities delivering undergraduate education in Malaysia, and then for Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. She also worked with community service agencies and government ministries on research and programs involving mental health, youth health risk behaviours, and all levels of education from post-graduate to preschool.

Upon joining the faculty at the University of Victoria in 1996 as a Visiting Associate Professor in Psychology, Dr. Ball played a key role in creating a practicum in psychological assessment of children and youth through an ongoing service contract between the Department of Psychology graduate clinical training program and the Ministry for Children and Family Development. Shifting to the School of Child and Youth Care in 2001, for 10 years Dr. Ball was Co-Coordinator and subsequently Coordinator of the First Nations Partnership Programs, an award-winning innovation in delivering a community-based child and youth care diploma through partnerships with communities ( She led an evaluation of seven program deliveries in which a generative curriculum approach incorporated Euro-Western and Indigenous knowledges, earning the program an award from the Lawson Foundation and UNESCO recognition as a Best Practice incorporating Indigenous Knowledge to build community capacity.

Research interests

Cultural ecologies of child development, Indigenous children and families, early childhood care and development, father involvement, community-based research partnerships.

Current work

Dr. Ball has a grant funded program of research focusing mainly on the cultural nature of child and family development and associated program and policy implications ( Projects have included early language development, multilingualism and language-in-education  policy, cultural safety in social services, fathers’ involvement with young children, evaluation of quality child care and child development outcomes, early screening and intervention, and child care capacity building in Indigenous communities and in resource-constrained settings in Southeast Asia. She often leads projects in these and related areas for the Aga Khan Foundation, UNESCO, the Open Society Foundations, BRAC, and the Brookings Institute-Centre for Education.  Currently, she is working on network and leadership development for the emerging early childhood sector in Myanmar.

Dr. Ball’s current research, funded by the Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada, explores family, cultural, economic and political determinants of child statelessness in Indonesia.   Dr. Ball is a national leader in community-university engagement and in research-based understandings of Indigenous father involvement.  In policy circles, Dr. Ball is best known for her study examining First Nations’ innovations in intersectoral coordination of programs for young children and families. Internationally, Dr. Ball is best known for her teaching, writing, and training on the importance of protecting cultural and linguistic diversity through practitioner training, program designs, and national policy. 

Selected publications

Ball, J., & Wangchuk, K.C. (in press). Development of an early childhood care and development sector in Bhutan: Protection of language and culture through a national policy of Gross National Happiness. Global Education Review.

Ball, J., Paris, S. G., & Govinda, R. (2014).  Literacy and numeracy skills among children in developing countries.  In D.A. Wagner (Ed.) Learning and education in developing countries: Research and policy for the post-2015 UN development goals (pp. 20-40).  New York: Palgrave  Macmillan.

Ball, J. (2014).  On thin ice: Managing risks in community-university research partnerships. In C. Etmanski, T. Dawson, & B. Hall (Eds.) Learning and teaching community based research: Linking pedagogy to practice (pp. 25-44). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Ball, J. (2012). Promoting education equity for Indigenous children in Canada through quality early childhood programs. In J. Heyman (Ed.), Increasing equity in education: Successful approaches from around the world (pp. 282-312). Oxford University Press.

Ball, J. (2012). Government involvement III: Long-term federal investments in strengthening Indigenous capacity for culturally based preschool. In N. Howe & L. Prochner (Eds.).  New directions in early childhood education and care in Canada(pp.337-366). Vancouver: UBC Press.

Ball, J., & Daly, K. (2012). Father involvement in Canada: Diversity, renewal, and transformation. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Ball, J. (2010). Indigenous fathers reconstituting circles of care. American Journal of Community Psychology: Special Issue on Men, Masculinity, Wellness, Health and Social Justice – Community-based Approaches, (45), 124-138.DOI 10.1007/s10464-009-9293-1

Ball, J. (2010). Enhancing learning of children from diverse language backgrounds: Mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education in the early years: Literature review. UNESCO, International Mother Language Development

Ball, J. (2009). Supporting young Indigenous children’s language development in Canada: A review of research on needs and promising practices. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 66(1), 20-47.

Ball, J. & Janyst, P. (2008).  Enacting research ethics in partnerships with Indigenous communities in Canada: “Do it in a good way.” Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics. 3(2), 33-51.

Ball, J. & Bernhardt, B.M. (2008).  First Nations English dialects in Canada: Implications for speech-language pathology practice. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics22:8, 570-588.