Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 45–60 | Cite as

Antenatal and Postnatal Determinants of Behavioural Difficulties in Early Childhood: Evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand

  • Stephanie D’Souza
  • Karen E. WaldieEmail author
  • Elizabeth R. Peterson
  • Lisa Underwood
  • Susan M. B. Morton
Original Article


Behavioural difficulties during early childhood have significant implications for multiple outcomes later in life. Child behavioural difficulties at 2 years of age (N = 6246) were assessed by mothers enrolled in a longitudinal, population-based New Zealand cohort study. 10.1% of children had total difficulties scores in the abnormal range on the preschool version of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. After controlling for maternal education, poverty, and child’s birth age/weight, several antenatal and postnatal maternal health and family risk factors were significant for: (i) emotional problems (antenatal maternal perceived stress, lack of periconceptional folate, and moderate to severe maternal postnatal anxiety); (ii) hyperactivity-inattention (antenatal maternal perceived stress, mothers’ antenatal exposure to secondhand smoke, moderate to severe maternal postnatal anxiety, and low maternal self-evaluation); (iii) conduct problems and total difficulties (antenatal maternal perceived stress, verbal inter-parental conflict and low maternal self-evaluation). The identification of risk and protective factors associated with early childhood difficulties are vital for guiding intervention and prevention efforts.


Cohort Longitudinal SDQ Behaviour Antenatal 



Data collection wave


New Zealand


Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire


World Health Organization



Growing Up in New Zealand has been funded by the New Zealand Ministries of Social Development, Health, Education, Justice and Pacific Island Affairs; the former Ministry of Science Innovation and the former Department of Labour (now both part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment); the former Ministry of Women’s Affairs (now the Ministry for Women); the Department of Corrections; the Families Commission (now known as the Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit); Te Puni Kokiri; New Zealand Police; Sport New Zealand; the Housing New Zealand Corporation; and the former Mental Health Commission, The University of Auckland and Auckland UniServices Limited. Other support for the study has been provided by the NZ Health Research Council, Statistics New Zealand, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and the Office of Ethnic Affairs. The study has been designed and conducted by the Growing Up in New Zealand study team, led by the University of Auckland. The authors acknowledge the contributions of the original study investigators: Susan M.B. Morton, Polly E. Atatoa Carr, Cameron C. Grant, Arier C. Lee, Dinusha K. Bandara, Jatender Mohal, Jennifer M. Kinloch, Johanna M. Schmidt, Mary R. Hedges, Vivienne C. Ivory, Te Kani R. Kingi, Renee Liang, Lana M. Perese, Elizabeth Peterson, Jan E. Pryor, Elaine Reese, Elizabeth M. Robinson, Karen E. Waldie, Clare R. Wall. The views reported in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Growing Up in New Zealand investigators.

Supplementary material

10578_2018_816_MOESM1_ESM.docx (28 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 28 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephanie D’Souza
    • 1
    • 2
  • Karen E. Waldie
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Elizabeth R. Peterson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lisa Underwood
    • 2
  • Susan M. B. Morton
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Psychology, Faculty of ScienceThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Centre for Longitudinal Research - He Ara ki MuaThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.School of Population HealthThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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