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Patterns of Early Childhood Residential Mobility, Unmet Healthcare Needs, And Child Health in Aotearoa New Zealand; New evidence from the Growing Up in New Zealand study

International research has demonstrated links between residential mobility in childhood, and adverse health, social, educational, and physiological outcomes in children. Aotearoa is a highly mobile population, with particularly high levels of residential mobility among young people.

Using longitudinal data from Growing Up in New Zealand, over 5,000 children were followed from antenatal through to when they were 8-years old to examine experiences of residential mobility across early childhood (through to 54-months) and how these may influence unmet healthcare needs and child health outcomes (at 54-months and 8-years).

The research found that 12 percent of children experienced a transition from relative stability in the earliest years to high or very high residential mobility. Experiences of higher residential mobility were found to be associated with unmet healthcare needs. This negative association was strongest for children experiencing a transition to very high residential mobility, where children had moved three or more times between data collection waves.

The research did not find strong associations between early childhood residential mobility trajectories and child health. Any associations were either attenuated once socioeconomic characteristics were controlled for, or if the association remained it was weaker than the association between socioeconomic characteristics and child health.

Overall, the research confirms previous findings that many young children in Aotearoa are not residentially stable. Findings also indicate that stable housing has benefits for children's access to healthcare and, to a lesser extent, child health. Researchers recommend that policies should ensure that all children have access to stable housing. In addition, public health interventions and healthcare delivery should recognise that residential mobility may disrupt children's access to healthcare.

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