About Growing Up in New Zealand

Seven thousand toddlers in New Zealand have a special connection with each other that will last for at least 21 years. They are all taking part in a study that aims to improve the lives of their generation and answer the fundamental question: What makes us who we are?

Based at the University of Auckland's Centre for Longitudinal Research - He Ara ki Mua, Growing Up in New Zealand is keeping tabs on the growth and development of the children. To date parents have been interviewed before their children's birth, and when the children were nine months, two years, and four and a half years of age.

In addition, brief telephone interviews were conducted six weeks after the expected date of delivery, and another five times before the children turned five. Routine linkage to details about the child's birth has supplemented this information to detail the first critical months of the children's development. The study is designed to continue until the children turn 21.

At each interview, we ask about the child's health and wellbeing, family/whānau life, education, psychological development, neighbourhood and environment, and culture and identity. The answers are a mine of information for planners and policy makers as they work to improve the lives of all New Zealand children.

The babies in Growing Up in New Zealand represent the diversity of children being born in New Zealand today. Although recruited in Auckland and the Waikato, they will be followed up wherever they move to in the future. The research is anonymous and parents and children give their time for free.


What makes Growing Up in New Zealand special?

Growing Up in New Zealand leads the way in international longitudinal studies by starting before the baby is born. Scientific studies suggest that the time in the womb is important in determining how a child develops later on. That is why mums in the study were asked questions in the last 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Once born, children are influenced by their family life and physical environment. Growing Up in New Zealand will give a comprehensive insight into the lives of our children - their health, education, cultural influences and community life. The study has a strong partnership with government agencies who will be able to use the research when making policies. The added value for decision-makers will come when the impact of these policies is measured amongst the Growing Up in New Zealand generation.

The study is also unique in that it includes fathers and partners so we can get both parents' views on issues such as breastfeeding, early childhood education and returning to work.

Important features of the study:

  • The information on babies starts before their birth;

  • Dads or mums' partners are included from before birth;

  • The ethnic diversity of the children represents all births in New Zealand;

  • Parents were questioned face-to-face three times, and twice by phone before their child turned two. This aims to fill gaps in knowledge about early child development;

  • We work with policy makers to turn research into real change.