Story: Ngā mātua – Māori parenting

Page 3. Influences on parenting

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Changes to Māori parenting

Parenting for Māori whānau is similar to that for other New Zealanders. Urbanisation, changed family composition, the increased participation of women in the labour market and longer working lives for grandparents has led to changes in how children are parented within whānau.

As extended family environments are eroded, parents have increasingly limited access to sources of advice and support from mothers, grandparents, siblings or aunties and uncles, who in the past would have lived in close proximity. This has led to increased demand for resources and information on parenting.

Structural and social determinants

Māori parenting is shaped by Māori patterns of fertility and cohabitation.

Age of childbearing

Māori women typically have children at an earlier age than non-Māori. In the 1950s and 1960s most New Zealand women had their babies young, but while fertility patterns have changed for other ethnicities, Māori patterns have changed less.

In 2015 the median age of childbearing for Māori women was 26, compared to almost 30 for all women. Māori teenagers also had the highest fertility rate. Māori mothers are therefore less likely to have completed higher education, and to have a secure income, accumulated assets and a stable long-term relationship, making the challenge of raising and parenting children more difficult. However, having a baby at a younger age has biological benefits, with fewer complications during pregnancy and birth, and lower rates of congenital abnormality.

Family composition

Changing patterns of family composition among Māori also influences how Māori children are parented. Single-parent households increased from 13% of all Māori households in 1981 to one-third in 2013. Multi-family Māori households also increased during this period, from 4.7% to 12%. Children growing up in multi-family households benefit because they have the resources of all adults in the household available to them.

Economic circumstances

Economic and social changes in the late 1980s and 1990s resulted in a rapid increase in inequality that greatly affected the most vulnerable children, many of whom were Māori. Greater insecurity in the labour market resulted in slowly deteriorating relative incomes for working families, including middle-class Māori families, until the introduction of income-related accommodation supplements and Working for Families tax-credit benefits.

In 2013 the median income of Māori was $22,500, compared to $28,500 for the total population. In a 2010 quality-of-life survey, 11% of Pākehā, 18% of Māori and 28% of Pacific people said that they did not have enough money to cover everyday needs. Parents struggling to make ends meet are more likely to be stressed and less able to focus on the job of nurturing children. Government support for low-income and marginalised families, such as for Māori families, softens economic dislocation and disruption.

How to cite this page:

Cindy Kiro, 'Ngā mātua – Māori parenting - Influences on parenting', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 17 June 2024)

Story by Cindy Kiro, published 5 May 2011, updated 1 Jun 2017