Growing Up in New Zealand

Published: April 16, 2021

More than 6,000 New Zealand children and their families are at the heart of Growing Up in New Zealand - this country's largest contemporary longitudinal study of child development. 

Background

The University of Auckland study has been following the lives of these children since 2009 and 2010 - before they were even born.

They visit the children and their parents around every three years to gather vital information to build a picture of what it's like to be a child growing up in the complex world of 21st Century New Zealand.

The 6,000 children included in the study reflect the ethnic and socioeconomic make-up of New Zealand today, so provide us with an accurate representation of the diverse experiences of our tamariki. 

The Growing Up in New Zealand (GUiNZ) study will continue to connect with our cohort until the children grow into adulthood and are at least 21-years-old.

What makes Growing Up in New Zealand special?

GUiNZ leads the way in international longitudinal studies because it started gathering information before babies were even born. 

Scientific studies suggest that the time in the womb is vital in determining how a child develops later on. That's 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 and the study tracks these environmental influences, along with genetic and biological influences. 

The study is also unique because it includes fathers and partners.  This provides us with a complete picture of the family or whānau and how they are living in New Zealand today. 

Important features of the study include:

  • The study began collecting information from before birth
  • The study includes fathers (or the mother's partner) and has collected information from them before birth and throughout 
  • The study is ethnically diverse and is representative of New Zealand's population
  • The study gathered a lot of information in the first two years in order to generate a wealth of information about early child development 
  • The study translates research into action by working with policymakers to create real change.

What are we trying to find out?

We are building a comprehensive picture of life for children in New Zealand today so that we can learn what works to enable someone to have a happy, healthy and fulfilling life.  

The snapshot we develop of our children's lives focuses on several main areas, including:

  • Child health and wellbeing
  • Family and whānau
  • Education
  • Psychological development
  • Neighbourhood and environment
  • Culture and identity.

The information gathered provides a wealth of information which can feed into policy development and service delivery to benefit all New Zealanders.

In addition to our regular interviews, or data collection waves, our study participants have given permission for us to link to routinely-collected health and education data which enables researchers to generate an even more detailed and complex picture of child development. 

The GUiNZ study has contributed to a range of policy developments including paid parental leave; immunisation; childhood injuries; poverty and material hardship; housing; use of Early Childhood Education and pre and post-natal depression in fathers.  

Children and Families Research Fund

This research was funded by the Children and Families Research Fund, which supports projects that explore and analyse data gathered from the Growing Up in New Zealand (GUINZ) longitudinal study.

About the Fund

Each year the Government awards up to $750,000 in funding for social policy-relevant research to further investigation of the information gathered by the GUiNZ study.

The Children and Families Research Fund supports researchers to access GUiNZ data and to undertake research that informs priority policy areas. It is open to applications from academics, government agencies, public and independent research organisations and non-government organisations.

The evidence produced as a result of the fund will be released publicly so everyone can benefit. More details can be found on the Ministry of Social Development's webpage.

Growing Up in New Zealand publications

A recent study in partnership with Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) included:

Adversities of Childhood Experience and School Readiness - Focus on children born to teen and non-teen mothers in the Growing Up in New Zealand Data.

School Readiness, Adversities in Childhood Experience and Access to Governmetn Services: A Scoping Study on Potential Protective Factors.

The studies build on previous work that found exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) was associated with poor school readiness; school readiness decreased as more childhood adversities were experienced.

 

For other research projects using GUiNZ data visit this page.