Study describes life for new New Zealanders

The latest report from the The Growing up in New Zealand longitudinal study has revealed a wealth of information about the first months of life for kiwi kids.

The report Now we are born, to be released today, details the findings from interviews and data collected from 6790 children born in the northern North Island in 2009 and 2010. Links to the report will be posted here when available.

The data in the report was drawn from interview surveys of mothers before they gave birth and followup interviews covering the first 9 months of their child’s life, allowing researchers to compare parental antenatal intentions for their children’s postnatal environments with the reality for families.

Even though the information gleaned from the study covers just the very start of a New Zealander’s life, interesting findings are coming to light. Some of the many noteworthy statistics are listed below.

Lead researcher Prof Susan Morten of Auckland University highlighted the importance of the study and its applications for policy, saying:

“The first 1000 days of a child’s life are critical, from gestation until the age of two and this report is the half-way point – we will have greater and more complex insights into these children once the children are two.”

“But already the data is suggesting that our smoking and drinking messaging needs a longer view, that many homes are not conducive to good health and that our babies are turning to the TV before they can walk.”

You can read more about the report and its findings in our round up of media coverage:

Findings from Now we are born

Data from the first 500 days of life for the Growing Up babies introduces us to their health, environment and families. The 120 page “Now we are Born 2012” details information gathered from two face to face interviews, two telephone interviews and routinely collected perinatal health records.
Their health

  • 45 percent of children had had a cough lasting a week or longer by the time they reached nine months of age. One in four experienced chest infections. Nearly half had been prescribed antibiotics.
  • Fewer babies had their immunisations completed by nine months than was reflected in the intentions of their mothers before they were born. There was an early fall off in completion rates seen clearly for Maori children and for those living in high deprivation areas.

Their environment

  • Almost one in three babies are living in households where one or more people smoke.
  • There is a small but significant group of mothers returning to smoking when their children are born.
  • Many mothers who had stopped drinking during pregnancy had started drinking again but not at pre-pregnancy levels. NZ European mothers are the most likely to be back drinking.
  • 20 percent live in homes that are damp and 20 percent sleep in rooms with heavy condensation.
  • Large numbers of babies watch TV or DVDs either actively or passively in their first nine months of life. 76 percent of babies are in rooms with a TV on a daily basis. 20 percent watch DVDs or videos weekly while another 18 percent watch them daily. 32 percent watch children’s TV programmes daily.
  • 50 percent of the babies sampled one of the following in the first nine months of life: a sweet, chocolate, hot chip or potato chip.
  • 35 percent of babies at nine months of age spend time being looked after by people other than their parents. The most common form of childcare is daycare for high decile NZ European families while low decile and Pacifica and Asian families turn to unpaid extended family members for care support. This information is highly preliminary as a significant number of the Growing Up mothers remain on leave.
  • English is the predominant language spoken in homes but Te Reo Maori was commonly used by 16 percent of mothers and 12 percent of partners (this compares with just five percent of mothers and 3.5 percent of partners who reported they conversed in Te Reo before their children were born.)

Their families

  • Family life meant a third of working mothers worked at the weekend while 40 percent of partners.
  • Families reported tightened incomes, which meant they were forced to buy cheaper food (50 percent) and put up with cold to save on heating costs (18 percent). Thirteen percent had made use of food grants or money shortages.
  • The study found 11 percent of mothers suffered depression compared with 16 percent antenatally.
  • When mothers do return to work they opt for more flexible hours and less supervisory roles while partners return to the same job. Growing Up’s insight into parental work arrangements and childcare is important as, in time, we will be able to measure the effects of work and care patterns on child development and wellbeing.