Study History

Growing Up in New Zealand was conceived as a 21 year-plus partnership between researchers and policymakers.

The study has produced many reports, policy briefs and published papers which contribute to a growing body of knowledge on what helps to improve childhood health and wellbeing.

Check out our timeline of key milestones below.


Request for proposals issued by Government Agencies for contemporary study of New Zealand children and families.


Multiple reports detailing study design submitted to Health Research Council, Policy Advisory Group and international scientific review panel.


University of Auckland research team, led by Dr Susan Morton, awarded 18-month development contract.


Contract for Growing Up in New Zealand awarded to University of Auckland.

Growing Up in New Zealand is officially launched.


More than 6,000 pregnant women and their partners are recruited to take part in the study.

Face-to-face interviews take place with these mothers and their partners. This is known as the Antenatal Data Collection.


Report released: Before We are Born. Key findings include:

  • The cohort is incredibly diverse
  • The population of the cohort reflects the population of the New Zealand population
  • 90% of mother-father relationships were stable during pregnancy
  • The average age of parents having children was increasing.

Data collection begins for nine-month stage.


Data collection begins for two-year stage


Report released: Now We are Born. Key findings include:

  • More than a quarter of cohort families had moved households since the antenatal interview.
  • By nine months, more than half of infants had tried one or more of the following: sweets, chocolate, hot chips or potato chips.
  • 54% of families were living in their own home, 39% in private rentals, 7% in public rentals.
  • Families who had recently had a child, usually experienced a drop in income.


Data collection begins for 54-month (four-and-a-half years) stage

MBIE awarded to Growing Up in New Zealand to look at: Who are today’s Dad’s?


Report released: Now We are Two: Describing our First 1000 Days. Key findings include:

  • 86% of children had excellent or very good health at two
  • 94% had received some of their 15-month immunisations by two years
  • 92% were fully immunised
  • 40% had experienced a chest infection and 47% an ear infection in the first nine months of life.
  • On average, infants had made six visits to the GP in the previous year.

Report released: Vulnerability Report 1: Exploring the Definition of Vulnerability for Children in their First 1000 Days. Key findings include:

  • Māori and Pacific children were more likely to be exposed to a greater number of risk factors for vulnerability than New Zealand European or Asian children.
  • Exposure to multiple risk factors for vulnerability at any time increased the likelihood children would experience poor health outcomes in the first 1000 days.

Policy Brief released: Nutrition and physical activity during pregnancy: evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand. Key findings include:

  • Only 3% of women met recommendations for daily servings of all four food groups
  • Most women adjusted their diets to avoid alcohol and caffeinated foods
  • One in six women did not take folic acid at all-around or during pregnancy
  • Physical activity decreased during pregnancy.

Preliminary results published from “Kai Time in ECE” survey. Key findings include:

  • 56% of Early Childhood education services provided some food to children daily
  • 60% taught food and nutrition at least weekly
  • 47% required children to bring food from home
  • 80% of staff ‘always’ sit with children while they eat.

Report released: Residential Mobility Report: Moving House in the First 1000 Days. Key findings include:

  • Around half of the children had moved house at least once in their first two-years of life.
  • More than a third had moved house twice or more.


Policy Brief released: Keeping Our Children Injury-free – household safety evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand. Key findings include:

  • Many private rentals fall short of being safe places to bring up a child
  • 28% of privately-owned rentals did not have working smoke alarms
  • 43% of privately-owned rentals failed to provide fully fenced or separated driveways
  • 28% of privately-owned rentals did not offer a fenced play area for young children.

Policy Brief released: Measuring the Economic Environment – What Resources are Available to Children in their first 1000 Days? – released. Key findings include:

  • More than half of New Zealand mothers experience some level of hardship between late pregnancy and when their children are nine-months
  • Many parents have to cope with a drop in family income after having children.

Policy Brief released: Employment and parental leave around the time of birth: evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand. Key findings include:

  • Most New Zealand parents were in the workforce during pregnancy/before their baby was born
  • 80% took some leave when their baby was born
  • Parents from the lowest socioeconomic groups usually took less leave than others
  • Almost all fathers and many mothers had returned to work by the time their child was nine-months-old.

Report released: Vulnerability Report: Transitions in Exposure to Vulnerability in the First 1000 Days of Life. Key findings include:

  • Only one in five families whose toddlers were considered most at risk accessed social support services (first 1000 days)
  • The most common risk factors for vulnerability were families living in an area of high deprivation and a mother who experienced regular financial stress.

Policy Brief released: The intergenerational use of te reo Māori: evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand. Key findings:

  • The use of te reo Māori is on the rise
  • More parents are speaking to their infants in te reo
  • The number of toddlers who understand te reo has increased.

SuPERU (Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit) analysed Growing Up in New Zealand data on alcohol and pregnancy. It found one in five mothers-to-be continued to consume alcohol.

Policy Brief released: Who is saying what about immunisation – evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand. Key findings include:

  • Parents who received information during pregnancy that discouraged immunisation were twice as likely not to get children vaccinated on time.
  • Receiving encouraging information, on the other hand, proved to have no effect on the timeliness of immunisations.
  • More than half (56%) of pregnant women did not receive any information regarding child immunisation prior to birth.


Report released: Who are Today’s Dads? Key findings include:

  • More than 90% of participants were in paid work when their children were six
  • Some participants reported long hours, little flexibility and multiple jobs.


Report released: Now We are Four: Describing the Pre-School Years. Key findings include:

  • The number of children living with a single parent increases as the children get older.
  • A greater proportion of Māori children living in single-parent households compared to other ethnic groups
  • One in five mothers experience symptoms of depression in pregnancy or after birth.
  • By the age of four, 97 percent of children spend time away from their parent, such as in early childhood education or in organised home-based care.

Report released: Who are Today’s Dad’s? Key findings include:

  • Most dads are in good to excellent health, though half reported one or more risk factor for cardiovascular disease
  • Around half the dads felt they were coping very well with life and 40% said they experienced problems or stresses in their live


Minister of Social Development, the Hon Carmel Sepuloni, restored $1.9 million of funding to Growing Up in New Zealand.

Report released: Transition to School. Key findings include:

  • Most children were generally ready to start school and settled quickly
  • Most mothers and children adapted to school in less than a month.
  • Difficulties identified by mothers included: worry children wouldn’t like school, and being separated from the child.
  • 90% of mothers were satisfied or very satisfied with their child’s school.

Research in collaboration with the Ministry of Health using Growing Up in New Zealand data looked at whether kiwi families were meeting national food and nutrition guidelines. Key findings include:

  • 60% of infants were not eating fruit and vegetables twice or more daily at nine months
  • More than half had tried foods high in sugar, salt and fat such as lollies, chips and chocolate.
  • By nine months, 80% ate an iron-rich diet without sugar or salt added.


Research in collaboration with the Ministry of Education study looked at Intentions and decisions about early childhood education. Key findings include:

  • Mothers take an average 25 weeks parental leave after baby is born
  • Parents start thinking about parental leave, early education and childcare before birth
  • Parental intentions for childcare are not always reflected in their ultimate choices.

Growing Up in New Zealand receives $17.1 million from the Government’s Budget 19 to fund the next data collection wave.


Two reports were released looking at children’s experiences of Covid-19 restrictions, including lockdown in 2020: Life in Lockdown - Part 1: Health and Wellbeing  and Life in Lockdown - Part 2: Education.

We started collecting data from the children at 12 years of age and included the mother, the mother’s partner and the child’s teacher.


A new Research Director, Dr Sarah-Jane Paine is appointed to Growing Up in New Zealand.