Study explores modern child-rearing
Television is a daily staple for most tots but bedtime stories still have a place in many children’s routines.
The latest results of a longitudinal study of Kiwi kids has revealed some insights into the lives of toddlers, and the revelations are no surprise to Mt Roskill mum-ofthree Ellie Pike.
Tantrums and technology played a big part in the early years of her young family, like many other families in the study.
Pike’s 5-year-old twins Isla and Isabelle Kennedy are two of almost 7000 subjects taking part in the Growing up in New Zealand study which will follow children from birth until they turn 21.
The third report, based at Auckland University and funded by government agencies, focuses on the children at 2 years old.
It found toddlers spend an average of 1.5 hours a day in front of a TV screen, with 80 per cent of children watching TV or DVDs daily.
Just 66 per cent of 2 year olds are read to daily.
Pike admits her children are prone to spending extended periods in front of the box.
‘‘They watch too much TV and that’s my fault but they also spend a lot of their time outside on their bikes and playing with other kids up the street.’’
The community vibe of the street, where she lives with her partner John Kennedy, is playing a big part in her children’s upbringing, she says.
It harks back to the couple’s own childhoods where ‘‘everyone knew everyone’’.
‘‘That’s something that I love. Every time I think about it, it warms my heart and it gives you a little bit of hope and pride.’’
Glendowie mum-of-three Rachel Beattie says books are hugely important in her family.
Her daughter Sophie, 5, is always read at least one bedtime story a night, she says.
‘‘We don’t like using TV as a babysitter – the kids will watch about half an hour of TV in the morning over breakfast but generally they won’t have TV at night.’’
Pike thinks money is the biggest worry for young families in central Auckland, while Beattie says discipline is an ongoing challenge for most parents. Four out of five children in the study ‘‘often’’ expressed their feelings by having a tantrum.
Both mums say the support of extended family is invaluable when raising young children.
But Beattie says many parents are now finding themselves in cit- ies without family close by.
‘‘In the old days it was always said it takes a village to raise a child but I think you have to find your own different kind of village now and friends play a bigger role in that,’’ she says.
The report shows just 14 per cent of European children live in an extended family household, compared to about 43 per cent of Pacific and 27 per cent of Asian and Maori children.
The study’s director, associate professor Susan Morton, says the report helps build an understanding of what shapes children’s development and the areas where New Zealand ‘‘could do much better’’.
‘‘Infectious diseases are common and hospital admissions for respiratory and other illnesses are also high,’’ Morton says.
‘‘We are hopeful that the information we are collecting will help us to understand how we can improve these statistics.’’