Growing Up in New Zealand is a longitudinal study that provides an up-to-date, population relevant picture of what it is like to be a child growing up in New Zealand in the 21st century. It is the first longitudinal study of its kind that has recruited and collected information from both mothers and their partners from before children are born. It is unique in terms of its capacity to provide a comprehensive picture of child development across multiple domains of influence for all current children born in New Zealand, and for including significant numbers of our Māori, Pacific and Asian children as well as our European and other New Zealanders.
There are clear inequalities in health and education related outcomes within our population, with poorer outcomes in general for our Māori and Pacific children and their families and for those living in socioeconomic deprivation. Despite attempts to remediate these differences in outcomes over several decades, inequalities often remain and in many cases they have widened. It is not enough to simply describe these differences. The information provided by our families in Growing Up in New Zealand over time is designed to give us a more complete picture of the pathways that lead to differential outcomes, and to provide much better evidence for the development of strategies to reduce inequalities and to improve outcomes for all children.
From its inception the study has been explicitly designed to follow children from before birth until they are young adults, to understand ‘what works’ for our children and families (rather than primarily focusing on negative outcomes) and to consider pathways of development across multiple domains of influence. This will allow a much better understanding of the complex interplay of all the factors that lead to child outcomes including their growth, their health, their behaviours and their cognitive development. The model of child development shaping this study is always child-centred, but never forgets that children develop in dynamic interactions with their families, communities, environments and societal contexts over time. This conceptual approach to the study acknowledges the growth in our understanding of early child development in the last few decades, with an increasing recognition of the importance of the antenatal period and the first few years of life for shaping future developmental pathways for our children.
The overall objective of this study is to provide a robust, population relevant evidence base in order to inform public policy for all current New Zealand children and their families. The data collected in this study will create a valuable resource for the benefit of all New Zealanders, in particular:
- for researchers to gain a better understanding of the causal pathways that lead to particular developmental outcomes;
- for policy makers to inform strategies to optimise development;
- for the children and families who take part in this study as well as for all future generations of New Zealanders.