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Dear <<First Name>>
As we reach the end of another busy year I’m sure that, like me, you’re looking forward to longer summer days and opportunities to spend more time with family, friends and loved ones.

This year Growing Up in New Zealand has achieved some significant milestones. Together with Superu we released the Now We Are Four report on the children’s journey leading up to their first day of school. We look forward to sharing how they went when we release our Now We Are at School report early next year. 

In July Growing Up in New Zealand interviewers began visiting families for the Eight Year Data Collection Wave and this month we celebrated the completion of 1,000 interviews. An exciting part of this data collection (read more about it in this newsletter) is that we are hearing the children’s own voices for the first time; they'll provide us with unique insights we've not previously been privileged to.

Also in this update we look at some of the research findings published over the year and the way we and others make use of the information our children and families share with us.

We look forward to keeping you up to date with progress through 2018 but for now, on behalf of the whole Growing Up in New Zealand team, I wish you a safe and happy holiday season.

Ngā mihi
 Dr Susan Morton
An update on our approach for the 8 Year Data Collection Wave
Growing Up in New Zealand’s 8 Year Data Collection Wave is underway, with core government funding enabling face-to-face interviews with around half of the cohort.

Research Director, Associate Professor Susan Morton, says the study is currently working with the University of Auckland to secure the additional funding needed to engage with all the families.

“Ultimately, our aim is to see all the children face-to-face once funding is in place. If that’s not possible, we’ll provide another method to ensure we can collect 8 Year data from everyone in the cohort.”

Dr Morton says every study participant offers a unique contribution to the study.

The 8 Year Data Collection Wave will take a break over the holiday period and restart in 2018.
One thousand interviews and counting ...
Hearing our children's voices

The eight-year data collection marks a significant milestone in the Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study.

Participant families have already provided a wealth of information: their hopes for their unborn children, the realities of having a new baby, a toddler, a preschooler and seeing them transition to school. Now, the children themselves are helping us to understand what it’s like to be a child in New Zealand today.

Growing Up in New Zealand research fellow Dr Caroline Walker says the data collection has been designed to engage the children in a number of interactive ways.

“We ask them to tell us about themselves by filling in a special diary on each of two days in one week – a school day and a weekend day. In it they record what they do, what they eat and drink, who they are with, where they are and how much they liked what they were doing.

“We also have sections where they can express themselves freely to tell us about themselves and their families. They have sent us back some amazing drawings, stories and poems. It’s an exciting and rewarding part of being involved in the Growing Up in New Zealand project,” says Caroline. Take a look at some of the children's work
How Growing Up makes a difference
Government’s announcement last month that it would increase paid parental leave from 18 to 26 weeks by 2020 is a great example of how Growing Up in New Zealand can help inform policy change.

Growing Up made detailed submissions, supporting increased time and payments for parental leave, to select committees considering this Bill. It's what families participating in the study told us would help.
And while information from Growing Up is already viewed as a valuable national resource, what’s even more encouraging is that longitudinal studies keep increasing in usefulness over time. That means social policy and programme developers will be able to continue using Growing Up evidence to keep making improvements for New Zealand children and their families.

Growing Up in New Zealand Pacific Advisor Jacinta Fa’alili-Fidow recently talked to the Tagata Pasifika TV programme about what the increase in paid parental leave means for New Zealand families. Watch the interview
Study participants help us mine gold
For the first time Growing Up interviewers are collecting information directly from the children.
Growing Up in New Zealand interviewers have been out and about since July, visiting children and families at home to gather information during the study's 8 Year Data Collection Wave.

Research Manager Sarah Berry says it's four years since the study last interviewed families face-to-face, so it's exciting to be reconnecting – especially with information being sought directly from the children for the first time.
"We'll have completed more than a thousand interviews by the end of the year, which is great progress and represents a big investment of time from our participants and interviewers."

Sarah says the face-to-face visit this time takes around two to two and a half hours to complete, which can be a big commitment for families.

"Many of us at Growing Up have young children ourselves, so we appreciate what it's like trying to squeeze in something extra between the school run, homework, dinner and extracurricular activities – especially now, as we close in on the end of the year. Life is busy!"

But Sarah says every one of the 120-150 minutes families spend with the interviewers is gold.

"We know that child development is influenced by lots of factors – education, health, housing, family relationships...so we want to gather the most accurate evidence we can about all of those things. That way we can draw conclusions that don't have any gaps or holes."

Sarah says while it may feel time consuming, "it means we can do justice to our families and to the study."

One of the special things about Growing Up in New Zealand is how diverse the cohort is, and that makes a thorough and methodical approach important too.

"Our families come from such different ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. So we design our questionnaires to capture the unique story of every single participant."

And sometimes, Sarah says, it can require ten questions to get a single answer that can be interpreted in a scientifically robust way.

"Plus we've got lots of catching up to do about what's been happening in the children's lives over the four years since we last visited.

"We often refer to this study as a national treasure, and our questionnaires really are like mining for gold – it takes commitment, but our families give us valuable nuggets every single time."
Funding contract for Growing Up returns to MSD
Growing Up in New Zealand receives core funding from the government to carry out its research.

Last month, responsibility for managing this crown funding contract moved from Superu* to the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

Study General Manager Annette Gohns says MSD played a leading role in initiating the Growing Up in New Zealand study as far back as 2004.

"We’re looking forward to working in partnership with them again for the benefit of Kiwi children and families.

"And we we'd like to acknowledge Superu's invaluable contribution to the progress and ongoing development of Growing Up from 2013 until October this year.
 
* The Social Policy Research and Evaluation Unit
Finding out what makes us who we are
The value of the biological samples we collect
Alongside the Four Year collection of information from families, Growing Up in New Zealand asked for permission to start collecting biological samples – swabs and saliva - from study children.

More than 5,000 families agreed and having these samples has significantly expanded our capacity to answer questions about New Zealand children and their make-up. Our genes are part of what makes us who we are. Very subtle variations within our genes mean that different people can be affected in different ways by the same environment – for example by diet or by physical activity.

In recently published research, Growing Up in New Zealand scientists looked at a specific variation in a gene called CREBRF. They found that children who had this genetic variation had grown bigger by four years of age than those who did not have that variation. However, researchers did not see these size differences when the children were born nor when they were two years old. They also noticed that this gene variation was more common in Māori and Pacific children.
Researcher Dr Sarah Berry says these findings are an important step toward understanding the interactions between our diet, lifestyle, and genetic make-up.

“Being able to look at anonymous data amongst populations within the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort allows us to understand why people are the way they are, and to create new opportunities to establish healthy growth pathways for all New Zealand children from the earliest possible age,” she says.

As with all Growing Up in New Zealand research, the information collected from children and families is analysed in a way that ensures no individuals can be identified.

The research demonstrates the value of the size and diversity of the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort. It also shows the important extra information we can get from the saliva samples we collect. Together, these factors help us to gather evidence that can be used to improve the lives of all New Zealand children, their families and whānau. Read more about this research project
Research roundup
Our university-based researchers make good use of the information we collect in detailed research projects and analyses. The Growing Up data are particularly useful because they are representative of children across New Zealand.

Their peer-reviewed papers provide further evidence for policy makers to consider when developing programmes and policies.
 
Evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand has been used in a variety of recent academic publications and these in turn have led to stories in local and international news media.
 
This year’s research stories have covered You can read about our latest research stories on our website www.growingup.co.nz/news
What participants told us about breastfeeding

This month researchers published the findings of a study that took an in-depth look at breast feeding amongst Growing Up in New Zealand mothers.

It uncovered some interesting facts about the factors that influenced the length of time women breastfed their babies and when they started to introduce other “foods” into their children’s diets. Read more about this research and some of the media stories about it.
 
Visit our website growingup.co.nz  to keep up with our news and latest research. Follow us on
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Want to get in touch?
Email: contact@growingup.co.nz
Growing Up in New Zealand is led by a multidisciplinary team at the University of Auckland. The contract for the core government funding for the study is being managed by the Ministry of Social Development.
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