Study to explore the impact of Covid-19 “lockdown” on New Zealand children

Growing Up participant Arieta and her dad Robbie.

The country’s largest longitudinal study is about to launch a new research project to discover how the Covid-19 “lockdown” has affected children in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The country’s largest longitudinal study is about to launch a new research project to discover how the Covid-19 “lockdown” has affected children in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Growing Up in New Zealand is following the lives of more than 6,000 New Zealand children and their families from before birth until adulthood.

The study plans to carry out a digital survey with cohort children later this week to gather information about their experiences of “lockdown” at Covid-19 Alert Levels 4 and 3.

Study director, Professor Susan Morton, says hearing the voices of children is crucial to provide insights into how young people may have been impacted by the pandemic.

“This is an unprecedented event and Growing Up in New Zealand is in a unique position to connect with thousands of children to learn more about their understanding of ‘lockdown’, the impact this experience may have had on their wellbeing, family life and education, and their resilience.”

Professor Morton says Growing Up in New Zealand already has a wealth of information providing baseline measures of the children’s mental and physical wellbeing and family circumstances.

Importantly, this will allow researchers to understand any changes in children’s wellbeing that may be attributable to the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent actions taken in New Zealand to combat it.

“This longitudinal information will help us to understand the immediate impact of Covid-19 and in particular, it will help us identify what has been protective and what has been more challenging for our children.

“This research can then be used to support the wellbeing of children, both here and overseas, as we face what may well be a prolonged period of social isolation,” Professor Morton says.

She says Growing Up studies around the world are undertaking similar research and it will be interesting to see how New Zealand children compare to their peers overseas.

Professor Morton says the research also provides an opportunity to discover how children have been connecting with friends and extended family when they cannot see each other face-to-face.

“We know that these children are digital natives and that they are comfortable in the digital world, but a ‘lockdown’ situation takes this to a whole new level.  We want to understand how children are responding to and feeling about this new digital world,” she says.

Waikato 10-year-old, Arieta Atatoa, is part of the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort.  She and her family are excited to be involved in the research to capture the impact of Covid-19 on children.

“The lockdown has been a bit boring,” she says. “I can’t hang out with my friends and I can’t learn in online school as well, but my family has been keeping me entertained. We’ve done lots of themed dinners and games nights.”

Arieta says children will want to share their thoughts about the lockdown.

“I think it’s pretty cool to ask kids how they have found the lockdown because kids don’t usually get asked these kind of questions and don’t get to have their say.”

Her dad, Robbie, agrees.  “I think this has been such a strange and challenging experience for our children and it’s probably affected them in all sorts of ways – good and not so good.  I’m pleased that our family’s voice will be part of something to help us understand the true impact on our children and families, and contribute to the big picture,” he says.

The digital survey will be conducted later this week with the cohort’s 10 and 11-year-olds.

Professor Morton says it’s vital that families who are part of Growing Up in New Zealand get in touch to ensure they receive the survey.

“We have a fantastic relationship with our Growing Up families, but we may not have up-to-date contact details for all of them.  I’d really urge anyone who has been part of Growing Up in New Zealand to touch base with us to make sure we have correct contact details so you and your family can be included in this vital research,” she says.

Members of Growing Up in New Zealand can contact the study on contact@growingup.co.nz or 0508 476 946 to update their contact details.

Professor Morton says the results and analysis of the research will be released later this year.