Study shows it pays to invest in children


In recent weeks, I have been following the TV mini-series Why am I? which focuses on world-leading research produced in the so-called ‘‘Dunedin Study’’.
One of the big lessons from the
study is the importance of investing in the
early years I have felt a derivative pride. Although I know people in the study, I am not a member of it. I guess I feel proud of the fact it is about us, and that it is a story about Dunedin punching above its weight.
Professors Silva and Poulton have led a University of Otago project that is the envy of the world.
The Dunedin Study reports on the 1000 most studied people on Earth.
A whole year of Dunedin’s children (now about 43 years old) have been tracked through life.
Their lives are being studied to discover what events lead to struggles or illness later in life, and what contributed to the success of those who are thriving.
One of the big lessons from the study is the importance of investing in the early years.
Although every case is different, children who have a good start in life are likely to do better later on — when faced with adversity.
Governments around the world are choosing to invest more of their national resources into early childhood education, healthcare and parental support.
Against the background of evidence gathered in the Dunedin Study and now replicated elsewhere in the world, I have been horrified by the low priority the current New Zealand Government has placed on early childhood.
In their first term, National made deep cuts to 20-hours free early childhoodeducation, reducing funding for quality. These funding cuts hit Dunedin hard because Dunedin had more qualified professional teachers per child than elsewhere.
On Thursday last week, the Government vetoed a Bill that would have given Kiwi mums and dads more time with their babies by extending paid parental leave to 22 weeks next year and 26 weeks in 2018. The veto is unprecedented, and it’s undemocratic.
The Bill was supported by the majority of New Zealanders, and had majority support in Parliament.
All the evidence points to the importance of having time to bond with your baby in the early months. Not only does it pay bigger dividends early on, but also later down the track in terms of health and learning.
Becoming a new parent is a huge undertaking. It is understandable that parents want the best start for their kids. And the Dunedin Study shows us the best start is more likely to produce welladjusted, successful children who contribute to society.
The veto runs against the world-leading research produced in the Dunedin Study, but it also confirms how increasingly out of touch National is with most Kiwi families.