Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

PhD projects within the Centre for Longitudinal research

Currently, seven PhD students research within the Centre for Longitudinal Research. They use data from the Growing Up in New Zealand study to better understand the causal pathways that contribute to particular developmental outcomes for our children.

Kai Time in ECE - The influence of childcare on pre-school dietary habits and body size

Sarah Gerritsen (PhD student)
Sarah is exploring the influence of childcare on preschool dietary patterns and body size. She is using data collected in Growing Up in New Zealand from the antenatal period to when the cohort children turn 4.5 years old, along with data from the Kai Time in ECE survey of early childhood education (ECE) services on eating behaviours, menus, physical activity and food-related policies in ECE settings. Analyses will focus on modifiable factors which could reduce the burden of obesity and obesity-related health issues on future generations.


Determinants of serious skin and soft tissue infection in New Zealand children

Dr Mark Hobbs (PhD student)
New Zealand children experience a high rate of hospitalisation for serious skin and soft tissue infections (SSSTI), with Māori and Pacific children disproportionately affected. Mark's research will determine the relative contribution of social, economic, ethnic, environmental, genetic and microbiological factors to the incidence of SSSTI in children under five.

Mark plans to identify all Growing Up in New Zealand cohort children who were admitted to hospital with an SSSTI, and compare their characteristics to those of other children in the study to determine the relative contribution of host (demographics, health status, variations in the genes that determine immune responses to infection), organism (variations in the bacteria resident in the nose, throat and skin of cohort children at age 4 years) and environmental (household environment, socio-economic deprivation, access to healthcare) factors to SSSTI.

The results will help guide future efforts to reduce the incidence of serious skin and soft tissue infections in New Zealand children.


What's life got to do with it? Exploring quality of life issues amongst New Zealand children with a food allergy and their families

Colleen McMilin (PhD student)
Colleen is investigating life-course determinants of food allergy in New Zealand children. She is examining the prevalence and incidence of food allergy, causal factors and the population effects as the epidemiology of food allergy in New Zealand has been incompletely described. Her work includes the role of vitamin D status at birth, health disparities in childhood food allergy identification and management, and quality of life issues faced by both children diagnosed with a food allergy and their families.


Pathways to healthy development in New Zealand preschool children

Dr Jin Russell
Jin is researching life course pathways to healthy development in New Zealand preschool children. She is using the health and developmental outcomes of children in the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort over their first 54 months (4.5 years) to determine the socio-environmental factors that help them on healthy trajectories prior to school entry. The project will lead to a novel method for conceptualising and representing early child health inequities.


Neonatal vitamin D levels and respiratory tract infections in the first year of life

Rajneeta Saraf (PhD student)
Rajneeta is investigating whether lower vitamin D levels at birth increase the risk of hospital admission during infancy with Respiratory Tract Infections (RTI). Acute respiratory illnesses in children are the leading cause of death, hospital admission and primary care use. Average vitamin D blood levels in women and infants are lower and hospital admission rates for New Zealand children with respiratory illnesses are higher than in other developed countries. Rajneeta wants to find out if respiratory illnesses in early childhood are more frequent or more severe in children who have lower vitamin D concentrations at birth.


The Healthy Start to Life Adolescent Education Project: Science-science education partnership facilitating science and health literacy

Jacquie Bay (PhD student)
Jacquie is researching how educational interventions can change long-term non-communicable disease risk. She is investigating the potential that multidisciplinary science education/science partnerships could deliver school-based intervention tools that facilitate development of scientific and health literacy through exploration of aspects of the non-communicable disease epidemic, a socio-scientific issue of relevance to young people.


Trajectories of Child Behaviour: Growing Up in New Zealand

Stephanie D'Souza (PhD student)
Stephanie's research focuses on identifying factors that contribute to the trajectories of emotional and behavioural development during early childhood. Using Growing Up in New Zealand data, she investigates how sociodemographic measures, parental mental health, gestational factors and concurrent developmental abilities relate to psychosocial measures at ages 2 and 4.5 years. Her research will help identify the greatest risk factors for poor emotional and behavioural development, as well as factors that increase resilience in cases of early environmental adversity. She will also monitor the trajectories of those with the strongest prosocial behaviour.