Growing Up in New Zealand welcomes funding announcement

Growing Up in New Zealand has warmly welcomed today’s announcement from the Minister for Social Development, the Honourable Carmel Sepuloni, that it will restore funding of more than $1.9 million to the child development study.

Growing Up in New Zealand Research Director, Associate Professor Susan Morton, says the new funding will make it possible to invite every participant family and child to take part in the study’s current Eight Year Data Collection Wave.

“Our families have given us such valuable insights into their lives to date, and have been so generous with their time throughout the study, so I’m delighted and excited that we now have this opportunity to continue engaging with every child.”

Last year the study’s funding was reduced, creating uncertainty about the number of children and families Growing Up in New Zealand could interview for the current Eight Year Data Collection Wave.

More than 6,800 families make up the study cohort and their ethnic diversity makes the study internationally unique.

Dr Morton says the cohort is broadly generalisable to the New Zealand child population and the announcement has come at a milestone stage of the study.

“Up until now, we’ve been gathering information about the children via their parents, but during the current collection we’re hearing the children’s voices directly for the first time. It will give us real insight into their lives in this crucial stage before they approach and enter adolescence.”   

Last month marked ten years since the study’s inception. Over that time, New Zealand’s contemporary longitudinal study has conducted more than 90,000 interviews and collected more than 50 million pieces of data, helping inform government policy to give children the best start in life.

Growing Up in New Zealand has provided information across areas as diverse as paid parental leave, immunisation, poverty and material hardship, family housing and mobility, household safety, bullying, participation in Early Childhood Education, and pre- and post-natal depression among fathers.

“The beauty of longitudinal information is that it keeps growing in value,” Dr Morton says. “Each data collection provides a snapshot of a point in time but when we piece it together with what we’ve collected before and will collect in the future, it helps us to understand the development pathways children follow and what works to give them the best possible foundation for a happy, healthy future.”

As well as forging ahead with the Eight Year Data Collection Wave across the full cohort, Growing Up in New Zealand will work with the Ministry of Social Development to make the study’s data more accessible and useable to a wider range of researchers. This will help realise its full value and support policy to improve the lives of New Zealand children and families now and into the future.

The study’s Eight Year Data Collection Wave started in July last year and, to date, around 2000 children have participated. With the newly available funding, interviews will now continue with the remaining cohort children until the end of 2018.

Growing Up in New Zealand’s newest report will be released mid-year, and findings from the Eight Year Data Collection Wave are due to be released around the end of 2019.

The ultimate intention of the study is to follow the cohort until the age of 21.



What is Growing Up in New Zealand?

Growing Up in New Zealand is a contemporary longitudinal study of child development. It has been specifically designed to reflect the diverse lives of children growing up amidst the cultural, economic, societal and technological complexity of 21st century New Zealand.

The study is following a cohort of more than 6,800 children from approximately 12 weeks before birth until at least the age of 21. The study is particularly interested in finding out what works to confer resilience and optimise child development.

Growing Up in New Zealand is headed up by Research Director Associate Professor Susan Morton and Associate Director Professor Cameron Grant.

Who is the Growing Up in New Zealand generation?

The children who comprise the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort were born in 2009 and 2010 (with a ‘Leading Lights’ group born in 2008) and were recruited from within the greater Auckland, Counties Manukau and Waikato District Health Board areas. Children and families generously give their time to the study for free, with face-to-face data collection waves taking place every two to three years.

What is a data collection wave?

A data collection wave involves gathering information from the participant children and families. Growing Up parents were first interviewed before their children were born.

At each data collection wave, information is collected across six key areas:

  • Health and wellbeing
  • Psychosocial and cognitive development
  • Education
  • Family/whānau
  • Culture and identity
  • Societal context and neighbourhood environment.

For each family involved, data collection to date has involved:

  • Eight face-to-face interviews
  • Six telephone interviews 
  • Two web-based interviews

What has the study found out so far?

Information from Growing Up in New Zealand has provided insights into a diverse range of areas such as paid parental leave, immunisation, poverty and material hardship, family housing and mobility, household safety, bullying, participation in Early Childhood Education, and pre- and post-natal depression among fathers.

Growing Up in New Zealand reports, policy briefs and scientific papers are available to view on the website.