Source: Growing Up in New Zealand, 28 July 2017
Evidence from the University of Auckland's Growing Up in
New Zealand study of child development links rental housing to
a reduced number of safety features in the homes of young
The research, published today in the Australian and New
Zealand Journal of Public Health, is based on data collected from
more than 6,000 families participating in this contemporary
longitudinal cohort study.
In face-to-face interviews conducted when the children were two
years old (2011-2012), mothers were asked about features of their
homes that prevent injuries to their children. These included
storing poisonous substances safely, knowing what to do if a child
accidentally ate or drank something harmful, storing matches and
cigarette lighters out of reach, having working smoke alarms,
having locked doors or gates at stairs, having hot water set at a
temperature safe for children, having fully fenced driveways and
play areas, and covering electrical outlets located within the
Lead researcher Dr. Sarah Berry says that New Zealand has a poor
record for children being injured from falls, scalds and
"These injuries often have long-lasting impacts for the children
and their families. The burden is greatest among children living in
more deprived households and so injuries contribute to the
unequitable outcomes these children experience.
"In New Zealand, the home is the most common location for child
injuries in the preschool years, so measures focusing on improving
household safety are an important place to start if we are to
reduce the rate of these injuries."
The study showed that across the cohort there were, on average,
six of the nine measured safety features present in each child's
household. Fewer than five percent reported having all nine safety
Overall, families living in private rental homes reported fewer
household safety features than families who owned their own home.
Families living in a state-owned rental home reported more
household safety features.
Household safety features were also less likely to be present in
the homes of children who had moved house at least once since birth
compared with those who had not moved at all.
There was no association between household socioeconomic status
and the number of safety features present in homes, over and above
that seen in relation to housing tenure.
"Private rental homes were significantly associated with fewer
safety features," says Dr Berry. "In particular, fewer of these
homes had working smoke alarms, fenced driveways or fenced play
"This suggests that there is an opportunity to protect
vulnerable young children by developing new policies aimed at
improvements to safety features present in private rental
accommodation. Such opportunities might include legislative reform,
standardised assessment of houses, landlord education and tenant
"We were heartened to see the recent review of the New Zealand
Residential Tenancies Act (Residential Tenancies [smoke alarms and
insulation] regulations 2016) that now ensures working smoke alarms
will be present in all rental homes. This policy change followed an
earlier release of household safety findings from the Growing
Up in New Zealand study," says Dr Berry.
At the time of this data collection around 40 percent of
the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort children were living
in private rental accommodation. The cohort is broadly
generalizable to the current New Zealand population.
Berry S, Atatoa Carr P, Kool B, Mohal J, Morton S, Grant C.
(2017) Housing tenure as a focus for reducing
inequalities in the home safety environment: evidence
from Growing Up in New Zealand Australian and New
Zealand Journal of Public Health online doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12695