Parenting Studies (Dunedin Study – NZ)

Update on the Parenting Study

The Parenting Study focuses on you (the Dunedin Study member) and your first three year-old child. The Project Manager, Judith Sligo, will contact you this year if your oldest child is turning three during the year. If you would like to take part in the Parenting Study, Judith will come and visit you and your child at home. The visit involves an interview, a filmed play sequence and some questionnaires. You are offered $40 for your participation in the Parenting Study.

What is the Parenting Study?

The Parenting Study involves current DMHDS Study Members who are parenting pre-schoolers.
We aim to learn about how parents and their young children get along with each other. This involves looking at relationships between parents and their kids and asking parents about their experiences of parenting.

This study involves any Dunedin Study Member parenting a young child – either biological or otherwise. Study Members are seen on this project with only one of their children.

If your child is about to turn three, you’ll get a telephone call from a Parenting Study Researcher. She will invite you to participate in the study, and send you an information sheet which details what’s involved.

If you agree to take part, the researcher will negotiate a convenient time to come and visit you and your three year-old at your home. The visit takes about two and a half hours. First, you’ll have an interview about parenting and your child (about 30 minutes). Then, you and your child get an opportunity to play with a whole bunch of toys the researcher brings with her. The play sequence is videotaped and a copy is made for you if you’d like one.

The play sequences involve a “free play”, where you and your child can play in any way you like (about 15 minutes). Then, there’s a challenge for your child (and maybe you) where you fill out a questionnaire and the box of toys is in the room, but your child is not allowed to play with them. They have a small soft toy to play with at this time (don’t worry, this part only takes ten minutes!). Lastly, you and your child work through a series of tasks using the toys in the box (about 15 minutes).

After all that excitement, you get to complete a questionnaire while your child gets some free time with the toys again (supervised by the researcher).

In appreciation of your help and time, a payment of $40.00 is given in exchange for your participation.

As with the Dunedin Study, any information you give us will be entirely confidential, and we can’t share it with anyone else – including your family members.

If you have any questions, or would like to know more about the Parenting Study, please contact Judith Sligo, the Parenting Study Manager, on 03 479 7223.

Overview of the Study

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.

Background: 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.

One of the reasons we developed this Parenting Study is because of the extensive information we have 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?

At the end of 2007, we had seen 450 Dunedin Study Members and their young children. This represents 99% of the eligible Study Members getting involved in the Parenting Study!


So far, Parenting Study findings have been reported in three publications. While that might not seem like many publications yet, there will be plenty more! Part of the reason is demographic – many of our Dunedin Study Members are choosing to have children late or not at all. The other reason (well-known to many researchers) is the lengthy process involved in data collection, data entry, coding and analysis.


Jaffee, S. R., Belsky, J., Harrington, H. L., Caspi, A., and Moffitt, T. E. When parents have a history of conduct disorder: how is the caregiving environment affected? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 2006 , 115(2): 309-319.

Abstract: Individuals with early-emerging conduct problems are likely to become parents who expose their children to considerable adversity. The current study tested the specificity of and alternative explanations for this trajectory. The sample included 246 members of a prospective, 30-year cohort study and their 3-year-old children. Parents who had a history of conduct disorder were specifically at elevated risk for socioeconomic disadvantage and relationship violence, but suboptimal parenting and offspring temperament problems were common to parents with any history of disorder. Recurrent disorder, comorbidity, and adversity in the family of origin did not fully account for these findings. The cumulative consequences of early-onset conduct disorder and assortative mating for antisocial behavior may explain the long-term effects of conduct disorder on young adult functioning. (DMHDS Publication ID No. RO507)

Belsky, J., Jaffee, S. R., Sligo, J., Woodward, L., and Silva, P. A. Intergenerational transmission of warm-sensitive-stimulating parenting: A prospective study of mothers and fathers of 3-year-olds. Child Development, 2005 , 76(2): 384-396.

Abstract: More than 200 New Zealand men and women studied repeatedly since age 3 were videotaped interacting with their own 3-year-old children to determine (a) whether childrearing and family climate experienced in 3 distinct developmental periods while growing up (i.e., early childhood, middle childhood, early adolescence) predicted parenting and (b) whether romantic relationship quality moderated the effect of childrearing history on observed parenting. Support for the first hypothesis emerged across all 3 developmental periods for mothers (only), with no evidence of moderating effects of romantic relationship quality for mothers or fathers. Results are discussed in terms of supportive versus harsh parenting, motherfather differences, and the characteristics of the sample. (DMHDS Publication ID No. RO477)

Belsky, J., Jaffee, S. R., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T. E., and Silva, P. A. Intergenerational relationships in young adulthood and their life-course, mental health and personality correlates. Journal of Family Psychology, 2003 , 17(4): 460-471.

Abstract: To evaluate effects of life-course events and experiences of young adults, as well as personality and mental-health history on intergenerational relationships in young adulthood, the authors examined dyadic relationship data drawn from a sample of more than 900 New Zealand 26-year-olds and their mothers and fathers. Results indicated that intergenerational relations were more positive when young adults were childless, not unemployed, married, and living away from home, but these factors did not interact with family relationship history in predicting relationship outcomes. Intergenerational relationships were less positive when children scored low on positive emotionality and constraint and high on negative emotionality and mental disorders, though these attributes did not account for the effect of life-course factors. Results are discussed in terms of the openness of the parent-child relationship in adulthood to further development. (DMHDS Publication ID No. RO453)

To request copies of the publications, please email us, citing the Publication ID Reference number.

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