Prevalence of Harm to Children and Protective Factors

Published: August 3, 2022

This analysis presents what we can know about harm to children and young people in New Zealand, as well as protective factors, through a data driven lens.

It pulls together information on harm and protective factors from a number of sources, including Oranga Tamariki, Police, Stats NZ, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Education.


The indicators here start to provide a picture of how safe children in Aotearoa New Zealand are, and how this is tracking over time. Indicators include victims reporting to NZ Police, potentially avoidable hospitalisations, and police investigations of family harm.

The indicators of protective factors, including early childhood education (ECE), health (vaccinations) and feeling safe, highlight the importance of collective agency work to make a difference for the longer-term wellbeing of children.

Key findings

Key trends for prevalence of harm include:

  • The number of young people (aged 0-19) reporting sexual assaults and related offences increased by 25% in the year ending June 2021.
  • There was a significant drop in the number of potentially avoidable hospitalisations in the year ending June 2020, which could be attributed to the COVID-19 Alert Level restrictions and hesitancy to enter medical settings during the pandemic.
  • However, in the first half of F2021 there was a noticeable increase in the proportion of all hospitalisations for 14-17-year-olds that were for assault and self-harm injuries.
  • The number of children and young people with police investigations for Family Harm has been increasing over time, from 3,609 in F2015 to 4,734 in F2021.
  • It is likely some of the worsening outcomes seen in the report are the result of the impact of Covid.

Key trends for protective factors include:

  • The proportion of children attending Early Childhood Education has been decreasing over the last 4 years.
  • 66% of children in school-year 8 were without cavities in 2020, an improvement from 54% in 2013. The proportion of 5-year-olds without cavities has remained relatively stable over time, at 57% in 2020.
  • There was a slight decrease in the proportion of children vaccinating at 6, 8 and 24 months as well as 5 years in 2021. This was due to uncertainty by parents whether regular vaccinations were occurring during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Next steps

We expect that the planned work to implement the Oranga Tamariki Action Plan will build a deeper understanding of the underlying factors at play, with a view to identifying what can be done to further promote wellbeing.

These findings are also useful in informing and strengthening our policies and practices.