Policy briefs

Policy briefs are smaller publications with evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand on a specific topic. They provide a concise summary of a particular issue to policy makers and government.

Policy Brief 6: Who is saying what about immunisation: evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand

A vaccination vial and syringe
  • Parents who received information during pregnancy that discouraged immunisation were up to twice as likely to not get their children vaccinated on time – the effect was greater if the mother was the one who received the information. Receiving encouraging information on the other hand proved to have no effect on the timeliness of immunisations.
  • Over half (56%) of pregnant women do not receive any information regarding immunisation of their child prior to her/his birth.
  • 39% of pregnant women and 30% of their partners received information that encouraged immunisation. In comparison, 14% of mothers and 13% of their partners received information that discouraged them to immunise their child.
  • Encouraging information was most commonly given by midwives, family doctors and family members to both pregnant women and their partners.
  • Family and friends, and media were the most common sources of information that discourages immunisation for both pregnant women and their partners.
  • While health care providers were the most frequent source of encouraging information they were also the identified source of 16% of the discouraging information.
  • One third of pregnant women only received discouraging information about immunisation.
Intentions for immunisation of the Growing Up in New Zealand children before birth, by their mothers and their mothers’ partners

Policy Brief 5: The intergenerational use of te reo Māori: evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand

Two children lying on the floor and looking at a teReo workbook


  • The future of Māori language is tied to the ability for te reo Māori to be spoken in homes in the years of infancy as well as the use of te reo Māori within other settings, including within the education sector. Also important is New Zealand’s attitude to the value of Māori culture and the recognition of te reo Māori as a treasure, attention to the importance of te reo Māori by the Crown, and evaluation on the state of the language.
  • At two years of age, 12% of children are described as understanding at least some te reo Māori.
  • A greater proportion of children are described as understanding te reo Māori at age two years than the proportion of their parents that used te reo Māori in their own childhood, or that spoke conversational te reo Māori as adults.
  • A minority (20% or fewer) of Māori parents of the new generation of New Zealand children describe they are able to understand spoken te reo Māori, or able to speak te reo Māori, well or very well.
  • At two years of age, more Māori children are not able to understand te reo Māori than those who are.
  • At two years of age, 40% of children identified as Māori are described as understanding at least some te reo Māori.
  • Ongoing attention to supporting te reo Māori within whānau and communities is required.

Māori identity and understanding te reo Māori at age two years


Policy Brief 4: Employment and parental leave around the time of birth: evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand

A pregnant woman sitting at her laptop at work


  • The majority of New Zealand parents (94%) were in the work force during pregnancy or before their baby was born.
  • Mothers and fathers across all ethnicities and socio-demographic groups would prefer to take more leave around the time of birth of their child than they anticipated they would be able to. Mothers typically anticipated taking 6 months of leave, while they would have preferred to take a year; fathers’ anticipated leave duration was 2 weeks, though the preferred duration was 1 month.
  • Mothers from the lowest socioeconomic groups anticipated and preferred shorter periods of leave (7.2 and 9.9 months respectively), compared to mothers in less deprived circumstances (9.3 and 18.0 months).
  • Over 80% of mothers and fathers who had been working took some leave when their children were born.
  • Multiple types of leave were usually combined to maximise the length of time parents could take off work. The most common combination was that of paid parental leave, unpaid leave and annual leave.
  • The most common leave type taken for mothers was paid parental leave (87.4%), while the most common leave type taken for fathers was annual leave (57.5%).
  • Almost all fathers and many mothers had returned to work by the time their child was nine months of age, predominantly for financial reasons.
  • Mothers who didn’t take any leave at all around the time of birth of their child were more likely to be younger, single parents, Māori, have unskilled professions, and be from low income households.
  • Those mothers who did not take leave were most likely to have resigned or been made redundant and/or they had not taken leave because they were not entitled to under the existing regulations.
  • A greater proportion of the most vulnerable children were born to mothers who were least able to take leave despite having paid work around the time of their pregnancy.
graph-parental-leave-policy-brief Anticipated and preferred leave periods for mothers and fathers

Policy Brief 3: Measuring the Economic Environment - Resources available to children in their first 1000 days

A child wearing worn-out sandals


  • Family income: It was common for cohort families to experience a drop in income in the immediate period after their child’s birth. By the time the children were two years of age the distribution of household income had shifted back in the direction of the pre-pregnancy household income distribution, although not completely back to pre-pregnancy levels
    • Most families were reliant on multiple income sources during the first two years of their children’s lives.
    • The overall proportion of households receiving an income tested benefit was similar when the children were nine months and two years old, but there had been a significant shift in which families received a benefit.
  • Economic hardship: Half of all families reported they have been forced to buy cheaper food so they could pay for other things they needed; 18% reported putting up with feeling cold to save heating costs; 13% had made use of food grants or food banks because of money shortages and 13% had gone without fresh fruit or vegetables often in order to pay for other things.
  • Service access: 6% of the cohort stated they were in contact with social service agencies or support services, such as Whānau Ora and Child Youth and Family, in the first 1000 days of their child’s life. 10% were in contact with two services and 5% were in contact with three or more.
  • Housing tenure and residential mobility: Nearly one in two families (45%) had moved house at least once between late pregnancy and when the cohort child was two years of age.
  • Household structure: Approximately 11% of the children had experienced at least one change in household structure between the age of nine months and two years.
  • Early childhood education: At two years of age, 56% of children were being looked after regularly each week by someone other than their parents. This had increased from the 35% of children in regular formal or informal early childhood education and care at nine months of age.
policy-brief-economic-environment-income Distribution of Household income for Growing Up in New Zealand families and changes during the first 1000 days of their child’s life (measured late pregnancy, nine months and two years)


Policy Brief 2: Keeping our children injury-free - household safety evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand

Toddler climbing up stairs


  • Unintentional injuries are common for children up to the age of two years in New Zealand, and they most commonly occur in the home
  • Unintentional injuries to children cause significant burden to the children themselves, their families and New Zealand society
  • Focusing on the home safety environment is important for reducing the cost of injuries to young children in New Zealand and there remains significant room for improvement in the home safety environment for all children
  • Important home safety targets for improving outcomes for young children in New Zealand include: electrical outlet covers; fall prevention (including doors and gates on stairs); hot water temperature adjustment; fencing of driveway and play areas and working smoke or fire alarms
  • Private rental accommodation is a particularly important target in order to improve the home safety environment for young children in New Zealand. This tenure type was the least likely to have: working smoke alarms; adjusted hot water temperature; a fenced play area; and a fully fenced or separated driveway
  • The presence or absence of home safety measures differs by family socioeconomic status
  • Families with young children are accessing information about home safety from a wide variety of sources
  • Many families may be unable to improve aspects of their home safety environment, even if they are aware of safety related information, because of a combination of tenure (not their own home) and socioeconomic circumstances. This highlights the potential relevance of policy, programme, research and societal support for improvements to housing health and safety
Key injury statistics for children up to two years of age


Policy Brief 1: Nutrition and physical activity during pregnancy - evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand

A pregnant woman making breakfast


  • It was uncommon for pregnant women to meet all of the recommended daily serving numbers, with only 3% of women meeting recommendations for all four main food groups
  • Approximately 24% of pregnant women did not meet the Ministry of Health recommendations for daily servings for any of the four main food groups
  • Recommendations for intake of milk and milk products were met by the greatest proportion of pregnant women
  • Recommendations for the daily servings of lean meat, meat alternatives, and eggs were met by the smallest proportion of pregnant women
  • Most pregnant women made adjustments to their diets during their pregnancy, most commonly avoiding alcohol and caffeinated drinks, along with raw fish and shellfish, and deli-based foods such as ham
  • Pregnant women made dietary changes using information obtained from a variety of sources. The two most common information sources were midwives and GP doctors
  • Pregnancies are commonly unplanned, and this impacts folic acid supplementation rates – particularly prior to conception
  • A small proportion of women used folic acid supplementation in a manner most likely to prevent NTD affected pregnancies
  • Almost one in six women did not take folic acid at all around or during the time of their pregnancy (if their pregnancy was planned or unplanned)
  • In pregnancy, women are likely to continue their prepregnancy physical activity patterns
  • Overall, the number of pregnant women that were physically active decreased during pregnancy
Proportion of pregnant women meeting the daily serving recommendations for each food group