Current research with GUiNZ data

The data collected by Growing Up in New Zealand is a rich resource for scientific research in our six domains: health and wellbeing, psychosocial and cognitive development, education, family/whānau, culture and identity, and societal context and neighbourhood environment.

Below are just a few examples of projects the GUiNZ team is currently working on. For completed papers, see our publications page.


Growing Up in New Zealand projects

The Growing Up in New Zealand team currently works on a range of scientific papers, spread across the GUiNZ research domains.

Multi-domain research

In 2014, the team released two multi-domain research reports. The first report described the cohort at 2 years of age and how the children's circumstances have changed since they were born. The second report dealt with the important topic of vulnerability - when is a child considered vulnerable, and what is the effect on the child's development?

In 2015, the team elaborated on this topic with a follow-up report on early childhood vulnerability. The report explored children’s transitions in and out of vulnerable states and described the impact of persistent and changing vulnerability on children’s health and behavioural development in their first 1000 days of life.

In 2016, the third report in our 'Vulnerability and Resilience' series will address the factors that support children's resilience in the face of adversity in early life.

Health and Wellbeing research

Current research in the Health and Wellbeing domain investigates the dietary patterns of mothers and their partners during pregnancy; the health of women before and after giving birth; the intention of parents to immunise or breastfeed their child versus immunisation and breastfeeding reality; how parents interact with maternity carers; and how the household environment affects children's health.

Culture and Identity research

Current projects in the Culture and Identity domain deal with the concept of ethnicity and take a closer look at Māori, Pacific and Asian families in the study. in 2015, we will release two separate reports which describe the first two years of life of our Māori and Pacific cohorts.

Research into Societal Context, Neighbourhood and Environment

In the Societal Context, Neighbourhood and Environment domain, the team explores residential mobility, parent's hopes and dreams for their children, and what support young families receive during pregnancy.

Research into Family and Whānau

What does a family look like in contemporary New Zealand? The team researches family structures of today's families with children.

Education research

Projects in the Education domain explore how early childcare reality in New Zealand meets parent's expectations



Other research with the internal Growing Up in New Zealand data sets

Beyond the projects mentioned above, the internal Growing Up in New Zealand data sets are used in a range of PhD and other research projects. Find a selection below.

Who are today's dads? Understanding the diversity and importance of fathers for children growing up in NZ today

Associate Professor Susan Morton, Dr Polly Atatoa-Carr, Dr Jan Pryor, Dr Te Kani Kingi (Massey University), Dr Arier Lee
The team wants to provide a unique and fuller understanding of the contribution fathers make to the vulnerability and/or resilience of families. They are particularly interested in the health and wellbeing of contemporary children around the time they start school.

They want to identify whether there are critical periods when paternal influence has the greatest positive effect on a child's early developmental pathways and later health and wellbeing. The project will examine factors such as age, socio-economic status, ethnicity, and personality and seek to determine their differential impacts on children.

More information about Who are today's dads

The influence of childcare on pre-school dietary habits and body size

Sarah Gerritsen (PhD student)
Sarah is exploring the influence of childcare on preschool dietary patterns and body size. She is using data collected in Growing Up in New Zealand from the antenatal period to when the cohort children turn 4.5 years old, along with data from the Kai Time in ECE survey of early childhood education (ECE) services on eating behaviours, menus, physical activity and food-related policies in ECE settings. Analyses will focus on modifiable factors which could reduce the burden of obesity and obesity-related health issues on future generations.

Hospitalisation for infection in the first year of life

Dr Mark Hobbs, Associate Professor Susan Morton, Dr Polly Atatoa-Carr, Dr Stephen Ritchie, Associate Professor Mark Thomas, Associate Professor Cameron Grant
Hospital admission rates for infections are increasing in New Zealand especially in the preschool age group. The team's aim is to identify risk factors for admission to hospital with infection during the first year of life, using data from Growing Up in New Zealand with linkage to a national administrative dataset of hospital discharges.

Preliminary results: In a multiple variable analysis the risk of infectious disease hospitalisation was increased for children of low birthweight, male gender, Pacific or Māori maternal ethnicity, the lowest household income, and those exposed to maternal smoking, urban living, and daycare attendance.

Preliminary conclusions: Māori and Pacific children in NZ have a disproportionate risk of admission with infection compared to European children, consistent with that observed in Aboriginal children in Australia. The independence of the risk factors identified indicates that interventions such as preventing low birthweight and smoke exposure are likely to benefit children irrespective of their ethnicity or household deprivation.
These results were presented at the 2014 Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases Annual Scientific Meeting

Determinants of serious skin and soft tissue infection in New Zealand children

Dr Mark Hobbs (PhD student)
New Zealand children experience a high rate of hospitalisation for serious skin and soft tissue infections (SSSTI), with Māori and Pacific children disproportionately affected. Mark's research will determine the relative contribution of social, economic, ethnic, environmental, genetic and microbiological factors to the incidence of SSSTI in children under five.

Mark plans to identify all Growing Up in New Zealand cohort children who were admitted to hospital with an SSSTI, and compare their characteristics to those of other children in the study to determine the relative contribution of host (demographics, health status, variations in the genes that determine immune responses to infection), organism (variations in the bacteria resident in the nose, throat and skin of cohort children at age 4 years) and environmental (household environment, socio-economic deprivation, access to healthcare) factors to SSSTI.

The results will help guide future efforts to reduce the incidence of serious skin and soft tissue infections in New Zealand children.

What's life got to do with it? Exploring quality of life issues amongst New Zealand children with a food allergy and their families

Colleen McMilin (PhD student)
Colleen is investigating life-course determinants of food allergy in New Zealand children. She is examining the prevalence and incidence of food allergy, causal factors and the population effects as the epidemiology of food allergy in New Zealand has been incompletely described. Her work includes the role of vitamin D status at birth, health disparities in childhood food allergy identification and management, and quality of life issues faced by both children diagnosed with a food allergy and their families.

Pathways to healthy development in New Zealand preschool children

Dr Jin Russell
Jin is researching life course pathways to healthy development in New Zealand preschool children. She is using the health and developmental outcomes of children in the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort over their first 54 months (4.5 years) to determine the socio-environmental factors that help them on healthy trajectories prior to school entry. The project will lead to a novel method for conceptualising and representing early child health inequities.

Neonatal vitamin D levels and respiratory tract infections in the first year of life

Rajneeta Saraf (PhD student)
Rajneeta is investigating whether lower vitamin D levels at birth increase the risk of hospital admission during infancy with Respiratory Tract Infections (RTI). Acute respiratory illnesses in children are the leading cause of death, hospital admission and primary care use. Average vitamin D blood levels in women and infants are lower and hospital admission rates for New Zealand children with respiratory illnesses are higher than in other developed countries. Rajneeta wants to find out if respiratory illnesses in early childhood are more frequent or more severe in children who have lower vitamin D concentrations at birth.

The Healthy Start to Life Adolescent Education Project: Science-science education partnership facilitating science and health literacy

Jacquie Bay (PhD student)
Jacquie is researching how educational interventions can change long-term non-communicable disease risk. She is investigating the potential that multidisciplinary science education/science partnerships could deliver school-based intervention tools that facilitate development of scientific and health literacy through exploration of aspects of the non-communicable disease epidemic, a socio-scientific issue of relevance to young people.

Trajectories of Child Behaviour: Growing Up in New Zealand

Stephanie D'Souza (PhD student)
Stephanie's research focuses on identifying factors that contribute to the trajectories of emotional and behavioural development during early childhood. Using Growing Up in New Zealand data, she investigates how sociodemographic measures, parental mental health, gestational factors and concurrent developmental abilities relate to psychosocial measures at ages 2 and 4.5 years. Her research will help identify the greatest risk factors for poor emotional and behavioural development, as well as factors that increase resilience in cases of early environmental adversity. She will also monitor the trajectories of those with the strongest prosocial behaviour.


Research with external Growing Up in New Zealand data sets

Growing Up in New Zealand makes fully-anonymised datasets available to external researchers and policy makers who would like to use this rich resource for their own research projects. If you are interested in working with our data, read through our guide on how to request access to the External Working Datasets.

Several government agencies and research institutes are currently working with Growing Up in New Zealand data. Find a selection of current projects below.

Are maternal experiences of racial discrimination before and during pregnancy associated with birth outcomes and postnatal depression?

Dr Laia Becares, Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity, University of Manchester
Differences in health across ethnic groups have been documented in countries around the world, with higher rates of morbidity and mortality reported for ethnic minority adults, compared with their white counterparts. Racial discrimination has been identified as one key distal determinant of inequality in health in previous research with adults, yet few studies have been conducted on the associations between racism and child health.

This study will utilise Growing Up in New Zealand data to examine the longitudinal association between racial discrimination experienced by the mother before the child is born, and child birth, child development and maternal outcomes as reported when the child is 9 months old.

The research is part of a larger study that aims to explore the structuring of ethnic inequalities in child development and health in the United Kingdom, the United States and New Zealand by examining the differential pathways through which social, behavioural and contextual exposures at the individual, neighbourhood and national level lead to preventable inequalities.

Participation in childcare at 9 months

Ministry of Education
Research and evidence from child development, neurobiological and human capital theory concur that experiences in early childhood can have long-term impacts. During these early years, children are not only influenced positively by rich learning environments, but they are extremely vulnerable to impoverished learning environments. In order to ensure quality childhood education and tailor policy design more effectively, we require accurate information on who, how, where and why children are participating in Early Childhood Education in contemporary New Zealand. We need a picture of how the family/whanau use childcare and how this affects their participation in the labour market or further education and training.

The objectives of this project are to gain a better understanding of the people who use childcare for their children at 9 months of age and why; and to describe the relationship between parents' participation in the labour force and use of childcare in New Zealand.

The research aims to produce a range of descriptive statistics which can be used by policy analysts and decision makers when considering how best to serve the need of New Zealand families for quality early childhood education. It will provide a comprehensive picture of childcare use at the age of 9 months, and will explore the relationships between labour force participation and income from before birth to 9 months, and labour force participation and childcare use at 9 months of age.

The quality of the interparental relationship and early nurturant parenting behaviours

Ministry of Social Development
The quality of the interparental relationship is of primary importance in family well-being and has a strong influence on a range of other family outcomes, including the health, development and well-being of children. Understanding more about the nature of interparental relationships in New Zealand is of high importance for public policy concerning families and children, since problems in this relationship, including the presence of conflict and violence, are likely to incur high social and fiscal costs, through public responses to domestic violence and the adverse consequences this has for children's development.

This research will aim to develop a set of measures of the interparental relationship, and use these to describe the quality of this relationship and to identify other factors in the family's background and circumstances that are associated with poor outcomes in relationship, including the presence of conflict and violence.

The research will also aim to develop a measure of early nurturant parenting and examine the relationship between the quality of the interparental relationship, including the presence of conflict and violence, and early nurturant parenting. It is anticipated that the research will have utility for a range of policy work, including on purchase, design and delivery of parenting programmes and work on family violence and vulnerable children.

Maternal drinking patterns in a recent New Zealand birth cohort

SuPERU / Families Commission
Recent studies have indicated that alcohol consumption in New Zealand has been increasing in the last decade, especially amongst women. High levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy have been proven to have detrimental effects on fetal and later child development, and it is generally agreed that the reduction of maternal drinking is an important public health goal.

The aim of this study is to describe maternal alcohol consumption in a recent New Zealand birth cohort, to identify the characteristics of mothers who drink and the factors associated with alcohol consumption in this group.

This information will help identify those women who continue to drink during pregnancy and enable better targeting of health promotion campaigns, including a campaign planned by the Health Promotion Agency. The findings will be used to make information campaigns more effective, lowering the use of alcohol and reducing harm to children's health.

NZ Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Prevalence Study: Feasibility Assessment

National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI), University of Auckland
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term for physical, cognitive and behavioural impairments caused by alcohol consumption during fetal development. The disabilities associated with FASD can persist throughout life and place a heavy emotional and financial burden on people with the condition, their families and society. To understand and better address the problem, reliable estimates of the occurence of FASD are needed for New Zealand.

Currently, no data is available on the prevalence of FASD in New Zealand. The World Health Organisation has introduced a standardised FASD prevalence study protocol to be used as a basis for countries to adopt. However, a number of challenges exist in screening for FASD, and extensive consultation and care is needed at an early stage with parents, whanau, schools, health professionals and communities. As such, researchers from the School of Population Health, University of Auckland together with FASD clinicians have been funded to conduct a feasibility study to assess recruitment potential; optimal location; parent, community and health professional interest and support; and availability and engagement of schools.

Integrating data on maternal drinking patterns from Growing Up in New Zealand into the feasibility study will provide more valid estimates of maternal drinking in the population than the information currently available, and thereby inform decisions about the sampling frame and choice of target area for the proposed prevalence study.