The Parenting Study

Overview of the Study

Few would question the importance of good parenting for children’s growth and development. Parenting is also a key determinant of long-term intergenerational relationships and family cohesiveness.This study focuses on members of the Dunedin Study and their first-born 3-year-old children. The aim is to identify the social and family determinants of parenting style, and to study continuities and discontinuities in parenting from the parenting experienced by the Study members themselves.

One of the reasons the Parenting Study was developed is to augment the extensive information already collected on the Dunedin Study Members and their families/whanau. We already know a lot about how the Dunedin Study Members were parented, and now we're aiming to add to that with new information about how they choose to parent.

Our research questions include:

Are experiences of being parented related to subsequent parenting in adulthood?

Are childrearing experiences at specific developmental ages (early and middle childhood and early adolescence) predictive of adult parenting behaviour?

Can a supportive partner relationship ameliorate the effects of adverse childhood parenting on adult parenting behaviours?

Are the parenting behaviours of women and men differently affected by the childrearing they experienced in their family of origin?

Does the intergenerational transmission vary as a function of when “children” themselves become parents—their age and thus psychological maturity when they have children?

How is the Parenting Study conducted?

When the child is about to turn three, a Parenting Study Researcher will contact the Study member to  invite them to participate in the study. Information outlining the details of the assessment will then be sent out. If the Study member agrees to take part, the researcher will visit the Study member and three year-old at home at a convenient time. The visit takes about two and a half hours. It involves an interview about parenting and the child (about 30 minutes); followed by an opportunity for the Study member and child to play and interact with numerous toys provided by the researcher. This play sequence is videotaped by the researcher and a copy is offered to the Study member. The play sequences involve a "free play" session (about 15 minutes) for the parent and child; a challenge for the child whereby the parent fills out a questionnaire and the child (who has a small soft toy to play with) is not allowed to play with the box of toys is in the room (10 minutes); and a series of tasks to be worked through by the parent and child using the toys in the box (about 15 minutes). At the end of the play sequence, the Study member parent completes a questionnaire while the child enjoys some free time with the toys again (supervised by the researcher).

Participants receive a token of appreciation for their participation. As with the Dunedin Study, any information provided is treated as strictly confidential, and will not be shared with anyone else - even family members.

If you would like to know more about the Parenting Study, please contact Judith Sligo, the Parenting Study Manager, by email or phone 03 479 7223.