Tamaiti/Child Poverty: The Ways in Which Poverty Shapes Tamariki/Children’s Patterns of Participation in Occupations, Their Potential and Wellbeing

Leadley, Simon John
Hocking, Clare
Jones, Margaret
Item type
Degree name
Doctor of Philosophy
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Auckland University of Technology

Tamaiti/child poverty is a pervasive and complex issue. There is substantial evidence showing that poverty harms tamariki/children’s development, health, hauora/wellbeing, and educational and vocational prospects. The assumption underlying this study is that because participation in occupation is the foundation of human development, health and wellbeing, understanding the patterns of occupation of tamariki growing up in poverty may shed new light on how and why whānau/families' material circumstances have these life-long impacts. Therefore, the research question addressed in this study is: What are the ways in which poverty shapes tamariki/children’s patterns of participation in occupations, their potential and wellbeing?

Dewey’s pragmatist philosophy underpins the study. Stake’s qualitative case study methodology (CSM) was chosen to guide this research, as it has alignment with pragmatism and enabled exploration of the topic through holistic, in-depth inquiry, in the natural context, using multiple methods and perspectives. The cases, two neighbourhoods with high levels of socioeconomic deprivation in a large city in Aotearoa New Zealand during 2022, were viewed from transactional, occupational and life course perspectives.

The participants in the study (n=26) included tamariki, their parent/s, and other adults and community workers who supported their participation in occupations. Multiple data collection methods included focus groups, interviews, observations, and document review. Methods were adapted to be child friendly where appropriate. CSM data analysis strategies used included direct interpretation, categorical aggregation, correspondence, and patterns. Two case reports were written, then cross-case analysis was applied leading to assertions and naturalistic generalisations that answered the research question. Triangulation, member checking, and a reflexive approach were amongst the strategies used to achieve rigour. Key ethical considerations included participant informed consent, or assent for tamariki, participant anonymity, a child friendly research approach, and remaining sensitive to the nature of poverty. Adhering to the articles of te Tiriti o Waitangi was an important consideration, which prompted efforts to seek and respond to Māori and Pasifika research mentors for cultural advice to ensure cultural safety.

The findings revealed that despite the best efforts of tamariki, their parent/s, whānau and their community, multidimensional poverty severely constrained the patterns of participation in occupations for the tamariki, and thus their opportunities to develop the capacities and healthy activity patterns that would secure their health, wellbeing, and prospects as adults. Concerns included habitual and routinised sedentary occupations, disrupted sleep, mealtime, and school attendance routines, and restricted geographical patterning of occupations, such that occupations seldom occurred beyond their immediate neighbourhood. Restricted participation in childhood occupations meant being excluded from and missing out on opportunities for role development and social networking and was experienced by the tamariki as detrimental to their hauora.

The findings demonstrate that these tamariki do not have the start in life equivalent to those growing up without the constraints of poverty. Thus, poverty is a breach of children’s rights, is occupationally unjust, depriving them of the right to participate in occupations, that over their life course will negatively impact their health, hauora and their potential for participation in socially valued occupations.

Publisher's version
Rights statement