Research Commentary [20] July 2018

Jul 2, 2018

This review focuses on six articles which are part of the Growing Up in New Zealand (GUINZ) study conducted by the University of Auckland.

There is a significant cohort of Asian families in the nationwide study. The articles offer information on the experience of migrant families raising children in New Zealand, and the differences in child rearing patterns and practices and in maternal support in Asian communities compared with European communities.

The review highlights the findings of the latest GUINZ study, compiled from interviews with mothers when the children were six years old, which focuses on their transition to primary school. The study tracking 7000 children found that parent's satisfaction with schooling was uneven. Mothers from non-European backgrounds were less likely to feel that schools met their cultural needs. Families from Asian backgrounds along with Maori and Pacific families and those from poorer backgrounds were over-represented in some of the most negative aspects of the study.

The articles reviewed include aspects relating to parent’s aspirations for their unborn children, antenatal childcare intentions, breastfeeding duration; parenting challenges and children’s transition to primary school.

Commentary provided by Dr Annette Mortensen, eCALD® Services Project Manager: Research and Development 

References:

Morton, S. M. B., Ramke, J., Kinloch, J. et al.  (2015). Growing Up in New Zealand cohort alignment with all New Zealand births. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 39, 82–87. doi:10.1111/1753-6405.12220. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/1753-6405.12220.

Morton, S. M. B., Atatoa Carr, P. E., Grant, C. C. et al. (2014). Now we are two: Describing our first 1000 days. Auckland: Growing Up in New Zealand. http://www.growingup.co.nz/en/research-findings-impact/study-reports.html#par_contentblock_1

Morton, S. M. B., Atatoa Carr, P. E., Grant, C. C. et al. (2013). Cohort profile: Growing Up in New Zealand. International Journal of Epidemiology, 42, 65–75. doi:10.1093/ije/dyr206. https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/42/1/65/693380

The following articles are reviewed:

Article 1: Transitions to school

The latest GUINZ study, was compiled from interviews with mothers when the children were six years old, and focuses on their transition to primary school. The study tracking 7000 children found that parent's satisfaction with schooling was uneven. Mothers from non-European backgrounds were less likely to feel that schools met their cultural needs. Families from Asian backgrounds along with Maori and Pacific families and those from poorer backgrounds were over-represented in some of the most negative aspects of the study.

Teacher changes 

International research has indicated that teacher turnover can negatively impact children’s achievement at school. Children of ethnicities other than New Zealand European were more likely to experience a change in teacher compared with children identified as New Zealand European, with those identified as Asian significantly so. 

School changes and transience

There were significant independent differences in the likelihood of moving schools according to the child’s ethnicity. The likelihood of experiencing a school move was significantly greater for children who identified as Māori, Pacific or Asian compared with NZ European. 

Parental satisfaction with school

Mothers were asked how satisfied they were with the effect school was having on their child’s learning and development and how satisfied they were with the school’s response to their child’s needs across a number of areas. Mothers of children who were identified as Pacific, Asian, MELAA or New Zealander were less likely to report multiple forms of involvement with their child’s school than those identified as European. 

Being at school

Whether the school was single-sex or offered teaching in languages other than English was important for approximately one-third of parents in each case. However there were some differences in the relative importance of these aspects of the school environment according to mothers’ and children’s ethnic identities. Offering tuition in languages other than English was considerably more important for mothers who identified as either Māori, Pacific, Asian, MELAA or Other compared with New Zealand European mothers.  

Authors: Morton, S.M.B., Grant, C.C., Walker, C.G. et al. 

Citation: Morton, S.M.B., Grant, C.C., Walker, C.G., et al. (2018). Growing Up in New Zealand: A longitudinal study of New Zealand children and their families. Transition to school. Auckland: Growing Up in New Zealand.

Publication

Article 2: Predictors of Mothers’ Self-Identified Challenges in Parenting Infants: Insights from a Large, Nationally Diverse Cohort

In this study of predictors of maternal challenges in parenting ethnicity was found to be strongly predictive.  Challenges of parenting category related primarily to factors external to the child, such as pressure on mothers to manage demands on their time, establish routines, be consistent, and meet others’ expectations (including cultural expectations).

European mothers in the study were more likely to report challenges with sleep deprivation than mothers of Asian ethnicity, and more likely to report the challenge Time management/work issues than both Asian and Pacific mothers. Asian mothers were more likely to identify maternal role and responsibility challenges than European mothers.

Finding that Asian and Pacific mothers were less likely to report Time management/work issues compared to European mothers may be attributable to differences between individualist and collectivist cultures. In collectivist cultures, group cohesiveness is highly valued and group members have a collective responsibility to help meet the needs of others. Therefore mothers of Asian and Pacific ethnicities may be on average more likely to receive help from their wider community in coping with the increased workload that accompanies having a new baby. 

Differences in the incidence of co-sleeping typically found in Asian vs. European parents may offer one explanation for why Asian mothers in the study were less likely to report sleep deprivation as a challenge compared to mothers of European ethnicity.

The  finding that Asian mothers were more likely to report challenges with the maternal role may reflect a range of difficulties, including possible language barriers and problems that Asian mothers may experience in balancing their own cultural views of parenting with the prevailing parenting practices of the European ethnic majority in New Zealand? As one Asian mother reported: “Sometimes I like the New Zealand culture, sometimes I disagree, like the sleeping. In my culture the baby sleeps with me for caring”.  

Authors: Corkin, M.T., Peterson, E.R., Andrejic, N. et al.

Citation: Corkin, M.T., Peterson, E.R., Andrejic, N. et al. (2017). Predictors of Mothers’ Self-Identified Challenges in Parenting Infants: Insights from a Large, Nationally Diverse Cohort. J Child Fam Stud: DOI 10.1007/s10826-017-0903-5.

Publication

Article 3: High Hopes? Educational, Socioeconomic, and Ethnic Differences in Parents’ Aspirations for their Unborn Children.

A research question in this study was whether parents’ aspirations would fit with cultural theories of independence and interdependence, with parents from interdependently oriented cultures valuing belonging over individual growth (esteem and self-actualization), and parents from independently oriented cultures valuing individual growth over belonging. 

Mothers’ ethnicity remained a dominant correlate of many of the different types of aspirations for their unborn children. Ethnicity was a significant correlate of the total number of aspirations for both mothers and partners. Mothers of Pacific or Asian ethnicity mentioned fewer belonging aspirations than mothers of European ethnicity; and mothers and partners of all non-European ethnic groups mentioned fewer self-actualization aspirations than European mothers and partners. These differences make sense from the point of view of the emphasis on independence in European culture and the emphasis on interdependence in Māori, Pacific, and Asian cultures in New Zealand. 

The authors acknowledge however, that these findings could be due to migrants answering questions in English as their second or third language. A limitation of the study method was that only responses in English were entered and coded in the analyses. While 80% of mothers in the sample reported English as the main language they spoke at home, 20% did not (Morton et al., 2015). 

Reference: Morton, S. M. B., Ramke, J., Kinloch, J. et al.  (2015). Growing Up in New Zealand cohort alignment with all New Zealand births. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 39, 82–87. doi:10.1111/1753-6405.12220. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/1753-6405.12220.

Authors: Reese, E., Peterson, E.R., Waldie, K. et al.

Citation: Reese, E., Peterson, E.R., Waldie, K. et al.  (2016). High Hopes? Educational, Socioeconomic, and Ethnic Differences in Parents’ Aspirations for their Unborn Children. Child Fam Stud, 25, 3657–3674. DOI 10.1007/s10826-016-0521-7

Publication

Article 4:  “I expect my baby to grow up to be a responsible and caring citizen” What are expectant parents’ hopes, dreams and expectations for their unborn children? 

This study explored parent’s hopes, dreams and expectations for their unborn children. Migrant parents were specific about safety concerns for their children, many wishing that their child live in a safe community or neighbourhood, home or house (“To be brought up in a safe community like this—that was the reason we moved here”). Others expressed concern about racial discrimination towards their child (“I don’t want him/her to be disadvantaged because of his/her race”). 

The desire that children adhere to group norms by respecting their parents or families was predominantly expressed by Asian and Pacific parents; to a lesser extent, Māori parents; and notably less so by those who primarily identified as European or New Zealander. Similarly, the wish that their offspring should care for them when they were older was more commonly expressed by Asian parents; to a lesser extent by Pacific women; and rarely by European, New Zealander, or Māori parents. 

Researchers found that parents who prioritised their ethnic identity as Māori, Pacific or Asian were more likely to talk about the child’s cultural belonging; for example, “to keep our own culture while in New Zealand” (Asian woman). Interestingly, while belonging in a cultural sense was almost exclusively mentioned by non-European women, the idea of respecting cultural difference was almost exclusively mentioned by European women (which includes New Zealand European), seldom by Asian women, and not at all by those who identified as Māori, Pacific or New Zealander.

Authors: Peterson, E.R., Schmidt, J., Reese, E. et al.

Citation: Peterson, E.R., Schmidt, J., Reese, E. et al. (2014). “I expect my baby to grow up to be a responsible and caring citizen” What are expectant parents’ hopes, dreams and expectations for their unborn children? Family Matters, 94, 35-44

Publication  

Article 5:  Caring for our infants: parents’ antenatal childcare intentions and nine-month reality.  

This study describes non-parental infant care within a diverse cohort and investigates the relationship between parents’ antenatal intentions and actual infant care. In comparison with infants of European mothers, infants of Asian or Pacific mothers were more likely to be cared for by extended family; and infants of Māori mothers were more likely to receive centre-based care. 

The high use of extended family care by Pacific and Asian families can be seen as a positive choice during infancy as it may more readily allow for one-to-one care with a single attachment figure, and may grant opportunities for language and cultural immersion. By age two, relatives continued to be the primary non-parental carers for children of Pacific and Asian mothers in the Growing Up cohort. 

The authors however, highlight changes in New Zealand Early Childhood Education policy which encourages higher use of ECE by ethnic minority families, offering high-quality centre-based care as providing increasing social and cognitive advantage as children grow older. As the authors say, in time, and with a greater proportion of the Growing Up in New Zealand children accessing formal childcare, it will be important to consider in more detail the interaction between ethnic identification, family context and socio-economic status.

Authors: Atatoa Carr, P.E., Reese, E., Bird, A.l. et al.

Citation: Atatoa Carr, P.E., Reese, E., Bird, A.l. et al. (2017): Caring for our infants: parents’ antenatal childcare intentions and nine-month reality. Early Years. DOI: 10.1080/09575146.2017.1323186

Publication

Article 6:  Breastfeeding indicators among a nationally representative multi-ethnic sample of New Zealand children. 

The GUINZ breastfeeding study looked at more than 6,000 single-born children in New Zealand from birth through to two years of age. Duration of breastfeeding was shown in the study to be associated with mothers’ age, ethnicity, education, number of children and whether the pregnancy was planned. The likelihood of exclusive breastfeeding for more than 4 months was decreased for children of women of Māori, Pacific or Asian women compared with European ethnicity. Further investigations on barriers to breastfeeding initiation and exclusivity among Asian mothers within the research cohort are necessary in order to guide specific interventions for this population group.

Authors: Castro T, Grant C, Wall C. et al. 

Citation: Castro, T., Grant, C., Wall, C. et al. (2017). Breastfeeding indicators among a nationally representative multi-ethnic sample of New Zealand children. NZ Medical Journal,130 (1466) 01 December

Publication