How Kiwi kids are faring at four

The latest report from the Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study shows that 14 per cent of Kiwi kids are classified as overweight or obese by the age of four.

’Now we are 4’ provides a comprehensive look at how Kiwi kids from the study are faring. It was produced by the University of Auckland with Crown funding managed by the Social Policy and Evaluation Research Unit (Superu).

Vasantha Krishnan, director knowledge at Superu, says the biggest shift for most children at this age is that they now attend early childhood education.

“Most are reported to be generally happy and healthy and spending time getting to know their peers.

"This means that we also see greater employment of mothers, leading to improved economic circumstances for these households.”

Results from the study show:

- A high prevalence of obesity. At age four, 14 per cent of the children were classified as overweight or obese. Interestingly, a majority of the children found to be overweight were perceived by their mothers to be of normal weight.

- Families moving homes frequently, with half of the children experiencing one or more residential moves since the age of two.

-The increasing number of children living with a single parent as the cohort gets older.

-A greater proportion of Maori children living in single-parent households compared to other ethnic groups. Previous research by Superu identified that these families tend to face greater financial stress which impacts their ability to function well.

-One in five mothers experience depressive symptoms during or since pregnancy. The proportion and composition of mothers with such symptoms varied over time. Less than 1 per cent experienced depressive symptoms at all points in time.

-By the age of four, 97 per cent of children spend time away from their parent, such as in early childhood education or organised home-based care.

Vasantha says nearly half of this generation of mothers live in private rental accommodation and experience multiple changes of address and the effect of this on access to services needs further exploration.