The Dunedin Study - DMHDRU

Next Generation Study

The Next Generation Study data collection has now ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic causing significant delays, in addition to lack of funding. 

What is the Next Generation Study? 

The Next Generation Study builds on 40 years of data already collected by the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, which has followed a cohort of 1,037 children since birth in 1972/73. This study has accumulated an extraordinary amount of information on almost every aspect of the Study members’ lives.

Many of the original Dunedin Study members now have children of their own. The Next Generation Study investigates inter-generational cycles of both beneficial and harmful behaviours and outcomes. In addition, the Family Health Study (2003-2006) gave information about the parents of the Dunedin Study members, providing a rare opportunity to examine these issues across three generations of New Zealand families.

The purpose of the Next Generation Study is to look at the lifestyles, behaviours, attitudes and health of today's teenagers, and see how they have changed from when our original Study Members were 15 (in 1987-88).

When the child of our Study Members turn 15, we invite them and their caregivers/whanau, to participate in this Study. For the young people, this will mean coming to the Dunedin Research Unit for assessment involving a range of interviews, questionnaires and measurements. The caregivers' assessments will be shorter, and includes a questionnaire and a brief interview.

We aim to address the following research questions:

  1. Are children of parents with a history of mental health problems at increased risk for mental health problems themselves? What are the continuities and discontinuities in risk for these problems across generations and what are the co-morbidities between physical and mental health problems?
  2. Are children at risk of “inheriting” physical health problems from their parents? For example, the risk of obesity is determined by both genetics and the environment (e.g. learned behaviour, such as physical activity or diet). What factors determine the transfer of physical health problems from parents to children?
  3. What changes in attitudes, lifestyle and health have occurred across two generations of 15-year olds?

How do we do this?

Dunedin Study members who have 15-year-olds are invited to participate. If the Study member agrees, we contact their 15-year-old and invite them to participate in the Next Generation Study, along with their primary caregiver. Once both the primary caregiver and the 15-year-old have agreed to participate, an interview at the Research Unit is scheduled. The 15-year-old participants are scheduled for a school-length day of approximately five hours of interviews and assessments. This assessment is very similar to the one that the Dunedin Study members undertook when they were 15 years of age back in 1987 and 1988.  The face-to-face assessments are conducted by trained interviewers and consist of:

  • Life History Calendar. This calendar provides a way of documenting whanau/family make-up, living arrangements and significant life events throughout the life of the 15 year-old
  • Questionnaires on Self and family perceptions; School and future work aspirations; Activities and pastimes; Eating habits; Self-image; Health and injuries; Ethnicity and perceptions of New Zealand society
  • A computer-based psychiatric assessment (DISC-IV) which has been adapted for young people in New Zealand. The DISC-IV is the world-recognised standard for psychiatric diagnoses
  • A self-administered, computer-based (audio-visual) questionnaire will be used for sexual relationships, alcohol and drug use, gambling and self-harm.
  • An assessment of cognitive function
  • Body size measurements: height, weight, body fatness (by body impedance analysis), waist and hip measurements
  • Cardio-respiratory fitness test on a stationary bicycle
  • Measurements of blood pressure using an automatic blood pressure machine
  • Assessment of respiratory health using questionnaires, spirometric lung function and skin-prick tests for common allergens
  • A (painless) dental questionnaire and examination
  • Cheek swab samples for DNA

The primary caregiver accompanying the 15-year-old to the Unit also completes a short assessment, which usually takes about the same time as the teenager’s first session. Parents who are not primary caregivers also participate, but by way of a shorter telephone interview.

ALL the information collected is kept secure and is strictly confidential, and is used for research purposes only.  

If you have any questions, or would like to know more about the Next Generation Study, please contact the Manager, Helena McAnally, via email or phone 03 479 5553; or Professor Bob Hancox, Principal Investigator, via email or phone 03 479 8512.