Growing Up introduces a new generation of New Zealanders

Pregnant mother with child

In-depth insights into the newest generation of New Zealanders are revealed today in a study which will follow more than 7,000 children for the next 21 years.

In-depth insights into the newest generation of New Zealanders are revealed today in a study which will follow more than 7,000 children for the next 21 years. The ante-natal findings are the first from The University of Auckland-led Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study and show immediate challenges for policy-makers.

The large number and diverse ethnicity of children in the study means the findings reflect New Zealand as a whole. The research shows this new generation of New Zealander entering a social environment which is ethnically diverse and multi-lingual.

The findings highlight deprivation, family mobility and evolving family structures. The initial data also provide a glimpse of the children's lives before birth with unplanned pregnancies accounting for 40 percent of births and 90 percent of all mothers-to-be to changing their diet with the news that they were pregnant.

Other findings elucidate the current prevalence of smoking and drinking during pregnancy. Findings such as a lack of awareness about Working for Families tax credits amongst mothers in poorer areas suggest that policies targeting inequality are not reaching those most in need.

Growing Up Director Dr Susan Morton says "This is the most exciting study in New Zealand today. It reaches right into the lives of the country's newest generation with this first data introducing us to their parents and the families they have since been born into. The information collected to-date clearly paints a picture of a changing New Zealand and poses challenges for the country's decision-makers - this is the real value of Growing Up in New Zealand. And I can promise you the insights these children and families have generously given to us all, will only increase over time."

The Growing Up in New Zealand study is designed to gather high quality information about the lives of children growing up here and aims to help improve educational success, health and wellbeing and social connectedness for future generations. The study has been five years in the development, planning, recruitment, interviews and analysis with parent interviews when the children are nine months old continuing throughout 2010 and some two year interviews underway. To date the study has cost $20 million with an average cost of $5 million per year. The next results will be released in late 2011.

Key antenatal findings

  • 40 percent of children were unplanned.
  • 90 percent of mothers made changes to their diet during pregnancy
  • 16 percent of all mothers did not take folate at any time before or during their pregnancy.
  • More than one in 10 mothers continued to smoke through their pregnancies (with an over-representation of those identifying as Maori and living in the most deprived areas.)
  • Many mothers consumed alcohol during pregnancy.

Key demographic findings

  • Forty nine percent of mothers identify as NZ European, 18 percent as Maori, 15 percent as Pacific and 15 percent as Asian. One in three of the Growing Up children have at least one parent born overseas.
  • There are a multiple number of languages spoken by parents with one in three children being born into families where parents speak more than one language competently. One in five children will grow up in homes where English is not the main language (although 97 percent of mothers and partners are able to converse in everyday English). The most common languages spoken in the home after English are Samoan, Hindi, Tongan and Mandarin. Maori as the main language is spoken in less than one percent of homes.
  • Twenty-eight percent of mothers live either on their own or with extended family (sometimes including their partner). Five percent of mothers are teenagers.
  • Ten percent of mothers needed fertility assistance to get pregnant.
  • Half of the children are born into families living in rental accommodation (public and private).
  • Forty percent of children are born into families living in the most deprived areas of New Zealand (according to NZDep 2006 indices).
  • Nearly half (45 percent) of mothers in high deprivation areas were unaware of Working for Families.
  • Children are born into families which are highly mobile with more than half having moved more than twice in the last five years. This is often within a neighbourhood.

Key study information

The mothers of the Growing Up children were recruited during their pregnancies during 2008, 2009 and 2010. The mothers lived in the Auckland, Counties Manukau and Waikato District Health Boards at that time. Many have left these areas but remain in the study.