A traditional approach to child rearing

12 July 2017

Leonie Pihama
Associate Professor Leonie Pihama is leading a study to improve Māori children's wellbeing.

Traditional Māori approaches to child rearing are steeped in collective responsibility, rather than conventionally promoted individual approaches.

Associate Professor Leonie Pihama, Dr Naomi Simmonds and Dr Waikaremoana Waitoki at the University of Waikato have been awarded $350,000 funding for A Better Start National Science Challenge in conjunction with Curekids to further investigate the place of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledges) as a practice to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young Māori.

Dr Pihama says to improve outcomes for tamariki Māori, it is critical traditional approaches to Māori health are revived.

The research project is called Te Taonga o Taku Ngākau: Ancestral Knowledge as a Framework for Wellbeing for Tamariki Māori and the research team will undertake three marae-based whānau wānanga (to meet and discuss) to co-create and identify policy pathways and potential solutions to mental health issues experienced by tamariki Māori.

Dr Pihama says there is also an increasing body of research that highlights these enduring issues can be traced back to the impact of colonisation culminating in issues of cultural disconnection, isolation and marginalisation.

“And there are myriad reasons for this this collapse of the collective approach including the issues associated with the historical trauma, denial of language and culture and the imposition of a nuclear family model superseding whānau,” says Dr Pihama.

Alongside the marae-based whānau wānanga, the research team will do 30 interviews with Māori and indigenous specialists who have vast knowledge of culturally based approaches to prevention and treatment of mental health issues.

“Ultimately, utilising traditional methods around Māori health and child rearing we hope to create matauranga Māori-informed, evidence-based interventions to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young Māori,” Dr Pihama says.