Wha–nau ko–pepe: a culturally appropriate and family focused approach to support for young Ma–ori (Indigenous) parents

  • Felicity Jane Rachel Ware
Keywords: Indigenous knowledge, young parents, research approach


Young indigenous parents resiliently raise children despite ill-founded stigmatisation. The problems arising from pregnancy while young, intertwine with culture and contribute to poor outcomes and hinder provision of appropriate support.

The historical impacts of colonisation and urbanisation on family composition and intergenerational support and knowledge of childrearing, aid in the explanation of the current disadvantages associated with young indigenous parents. An exploration of Māori (indigenous to Aotearoa New Zealand) perspectives of procreation and concepts of whānau (family, to birth) and childrearing values provide a cultural understanding of childrearing. This paper proposes an approach to conducting research with young Māori parents that confronts the complex challenge of being Māori, being young and being a parent. Being able to understand the actual lived experiences, needs and aspirations of young Māori parents will be invaluable for informing policy, research, practice and services that enhance their health and wellbeing and that of their children.


Arai, L. (2009). Teenage pregnancy: The making and unmaking of a problem. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

Barlow, C. (1991). Tikanga whakaaro: Key concepts in Māori culture. Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press.

Bissell, M. (2000). Socio-economic outcomes of teen pregnancy and parenthood: A review of the literature.

Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 9(3), 191-204.

Boden, J. M., Fergusson, D. M., & Horwood, L. J. (2008). Early motherhood and subsequent life outcomes. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 49(2), 151-

doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2007.01830.x

Borell, B. (2005). Living in the city ain’t so bad: Cultural identity for young Māori in South Auckland. In J. Liu, T. McCreanor, T. McIntosh, & T. Teaiwa (Eds.), New Zealand identities: Departures and destinations (pp. 191-206). Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University Press.

Breheny, M., & Stephens, C. (2010). Youth or disadvantage? The construction of teenage mothers in medical journals. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 12(3), 307- 322. doi: 10.1080/13691050903513234

Breheny, M., & Stephens, C. (2007). Individual responsibility and social constraint: The construction of adolescent motherhood in social scientific research. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 4, 333. doi: 10.2307/20460936

Buck, S. P. (1949, 1977). The Creations. In The coming of the Māori (Book IV, pp. 433-453). Christchurch. Retrieved from http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/ tei-BucTheC-t1-g1-t4-body1-d2-d1.html

Cardinal, D., Cardinal, C., Waugh, E., & Baddour, D. (2013). Voices from the land: Reflections on teenaged pregnancy in Aboriginal communities today - The voices of traditional healers. International Indigenous Policy Journal, 4(1).

Cherrington, J., & Breheny, M. (2005). Politicizing dominant discursive constructions about teenage pregnancy: Re-locating the subject as social. Health, 9(1), 89-111. doi: 10.1177/1363459305048100

Collins, B. (2010). Resilience in teenage mothers: A follow-up study. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Social Development.

Cooke, M. (2013). “And then I got pregnant”: Early childbearing and the First Nations life course. International Indigenous Policy Journal, 4(1).

Cram, F. (2012). Safety of subsequent children [electronic resource]: Māori children and whānau: A review of selected literature. Wellington, New Zealand: Families Commission.

Cram, F. (2001). Rangahau Māori: Tona tika, tona pono – the validity and integrity of Māori research. In M. Tolich (Ed.), Research ethics in Aotearoa New Zealand. Auckland, New Zealand: Pearson Education New Zealand.

Dickinson, P., Carroll, P., Keats, H., & Myers, A. (June 2010). Developing effective support for teen parent families: A community research project scoping report. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland Women’s Centre and SHORE and Whariki Research Centre, Massey University.

Dickson, N., Sporle, A., Rimene, C., & Paul, C. (2000). Pregnancies among New Zealand teenagers: Trends, current status and international comparisons. The New Zealand Medical Journal, 113(1112), 241-245.

Duncan, S. (2007). What’s the problem with teenage parents? And what’s the problem with policy? Critical Social Policy, 27(3), 307-334. doi:


Durie, E. T. (1998). Ethics and values in Māori research. He Pukenga Korero, 4(1), 19-27.

Durie, M. H. (2003). Nga kahui pou: Launching Māori futures. Wellington, New Zealand: Huia Publishers.

Durie, M. H. (2005). Nga tai matatu: Tides of Māori endurance. Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press.

Families Commission. (2011). Teen pregnancy and parenting: An overview. Wellington, New Zealand: Families Commission.

Fergusson, D. M., & Woodward, L. J. (2000). Teenage pregnancy and female educational underachievement: A prospective study of a New Zealand birth cohort. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62(1), 147-161. doi: 10.1111/j.1741- 3737.2000.00147.x

Fonda, M., Eni, R., & Guimond, E. (2013). Socially Constructed Teen Motherhood: A review. International Indigenous Policy Journal, 4(1).

Furstenberg, F. F. (2007). Destinies of the disadvantaged: The politics of teenage childbearing. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

Geronimus, A. T. (2003). Damned if you do: Culture, identity, privilege, and teenage childbearing in the United States. Social Science & Medicine, 57, 881- 893. doi: 10.1016/S0277-9536(02)00456-2

Green, J. A. (2011). A discursive analysis of Maori in sexual and reproductive health policy. (Unpublished masters thesis). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.massey.ac.nz/login?url=http://search. ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsoai&AN=edsoai.755281108&site


Herbert, A. (2001). Whanau Whakapakari: A Māori-centred approach to child rearing and parent-training programmes. (Unpublished doctoral thesis). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://ezproxy. massey.ac.nz/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db= edsoai&AN=edsoai.648817925&site=eds-live&scope=site

Higgins, R., & Meredith, P. (2013). Ngā tamariki: Māori childhoods. Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Hoffman, S. D., & Maynard, R. A. (2008). Kids having kids: Economic costs & social consequences of teen pregnancy (2nd ed). Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute Press.

Jahnke, H., & Taiapa, J. (2003). Māori research. In C. Davidson & M. Tolich (Eds.), Social science research in New Zealand: Many paths to understanding (2nd ed.). Auckland, New Zealand: Pearson Education.

Jenkins, K., & Harte, H. L. C. M. (2011). Traditional Māori parenting [electronic resource]: An historical review of literature of traditional Māori child rearing practices in pre-European times. Auckland, New Zealand: Te Kahui Mana Ririki.

Johnstone, K. (2011). Indigenous fertility transitions in developed countries. New Zealand Population Review, 37, 105-124.

Kaipuke Consultants. (February 2012). Regional trends in teenage parenthood.

Keelan, T. O. J. E. (February 2001). E tipu e rea: The examination of the process to design a Taiohi Māori development framework. (Unpublished masters thesis). The University of Auckland: Auckland, New Zealand.

Kiro, C. (2012). Nga matua: Māori parenting. In Te Ara: The encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Larkins, S. L., Page, R. P., Panaretto, K. S., Mitchell, M., Alberts, V., McGinty, S., & Veitch, P. C. (2011). The transformative potential of young motherhood for disadvantaged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in Townsville, Australia. Medical Journal of Australia, 194(10), 551.

Lawton, B., Cram, F., Makowharemahihi, C., Ngata, T., Robson, B., Brown, S., & Campbell, W. (2013). Developing a kaupapa māori research project to help reduce health disparities experienced by young Māori women and their babies. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 9(3), 246-261.

Loomis, T. M. (2000). Indigenous populations and sustainable development: Building on Indigenous approaches to holistic, self-determined development. World development, 28(5), 893-910.

Mann, M. M. (2013). International teen reproductive health and development: The Canadian First Nations context. International Indigenous Policy Journal, 4(1).

Marie, D., Fergusson, D. M., & Boden, J. M. (2011). Cultual identity and pregnancy/parenting by age 20: Evidence from a New Zealand birth cohort. Social Policy Journal of New Zealand, 37, 19-36.

McLaren, K. (2002). Youth development literature review: Building strengths. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Youth Development.

Mead, H. M. (2003). Tikanga Māori: Living by Māori values. Wellington, New Zealand: Huia Publishers.

Mead, H., & Grove, N. (2007). Ngā pēpeha a ngā tīpuna: The sayings of the ancestors. Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University Press.

Mikaere, A. (2002). Literature review. In D. Pitama, G. Ririnui, & A. Mikaere (Eds.), Guardianship, custody and access: Māori perspectives and experiences. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Justice.

Ministry of Youth Affairs. (2002). Youth development strategy Aotearoa: Action for child and youth development. Wellington, New Zealand.

Morehu, C. (2005). A Māori perspective of whānau and childrearing in the 21st century case study. The University of Waikato. Retrieved from http://ezproxy. massey.ac.nz/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db= edsoai&AN=edsoai.648818643&site=eds-live&scope=site

Ormond, A. (2004). The voices and silences of young Māori people: A world of (im) possibility. (Unpublished doctoral thesis). University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.

Palmer, S. (2002). Hei oranga mo nga wahine hapu (o Hauraki) i roto i te whare ora. (Unpublished doctoral thesis). Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand.

Patterson, L., Forbes, K., Peace, R., & Campbell, B. (2010). Headlines and heartlines. Palmerston North.

Pihama, L. (2010). Overview of Māori teen pregnancy. Maori and Indigenous Analysis.

Quinless, J. M. (2013). First Nations teenaged female lone parent families in Canada: Recognizing family diversity and the importance of networks of care. International Indigenous Policy Journal, 4(1).

Rawiri, C. (2007). Adolescent Maori mothers experiences with social support during pregnancy, birth and motherhood and their participation in education. (Unpublished masters thesis). Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/2490

Rimene, C., Hassan, C., & Broughton, J. (1998). Ukaipo: The place of nurturing. Maori women and childbirth. Dunedin, New Zealand: Te Roopu Rangahau Hauora Maori o Ngai Tahu: The Ngai Tahu Maori Health Research Unit, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Otago University.

Royal, T. A. C. (2005). An organic arising: An interpretation of tikanga based upon Māori creation traditions. Paper presented at the Tikanga Rangahau Mātauranga Tuku Iho: Traditional Knowledge and Research Ethics Conference.

Royal, T. A. K. C. (2002). Indigenous worldviews: A comparative study (A report on research in progress): Te Wananga o Raukawa, Otaki.

Salusky, I. (2013). The meaning of motherhood: Adolescent childbearing and its significance for poor Dominican females of Haitian descent. Journal of Adolescent Research, 28(5), 591-614. doi: 10.1177/074355841348758 Smith, L.T. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples.

Dunedin, New Zealand: University of Otago Press.

Smith, L. T., Smith, G. T. H., Boler, M., Kempton, M., Ormond, A., Chueh, H.-C. (2002). Do you guys hate Aucklanders too? Youth: Voicing difference from the rural heartland. Journal of Rural Studies, 18, 169-178.

SmithBattle, L. (2009). Reframing the risks and losses of teen mothering. The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, 34(2), 122-128. doi: 10.1097/01.NMC.0000347307.93079.7d

Taonui, R. (2010). Mana tamariki: Cultural alienation. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 6(3), 187-202.

Tipene-Clarke, R. (2005). He korero o nga rangatahi: Voices of Māori youth. Childrenz Issues, 9(2).

Tupara, H. (2011). Te whanau tamariki: Pregnancy and birth. In Te Ara: The encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Walker, R. (1990). Ka whawhai tonu matou: Struggle without end. Auckland, New Zealand: Penguin.

Walsh-Tapiata, W., Webster, J., Metuamate, A., & Nolan-Davis, M. (2004). Rangatahi Māori and their involvement in a rangatahi driven research project, Global Social Work Conference. Adelaide, Australia: Whaia te Hauora o nga Rangatahi Research unit, Te Runanga o Raukawa.

Ware, F. (2009). Youth development: Māui styles. Kia tipu te rito o te pā harakeke; Tikanga and āhuatanga as a basis for a positive Māori youth development approach. (Unpublished masters thesis). Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Webster, J., Walsh-Tapiata, W., Warren, T. R., & Kiriona, D. (2005). You say you’ve listened but have you heard? Lessons learnt by pakeke and rangatahi researchers about research on rangatahi hauora, Indigenous Knowledges’ Conference. Pipitea Campus, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand: Whaia te Hauora o nga Rangatahi Research Unit, Te Runanga o Raukawa.

Williams, C. J. J. V. (11-13 August, 2000). He aha te tikanga Māori. Mai i te ata hapara: Conference papers and selected supplementary papers. Otaki, New Zealand: Te Wananga o Raukawa.

Williams, H. W. (2004) [1971]. Dictionary of the Māori language (7th ed.). Wellington, New Zealand: Printlink.

Wilson, H., & Huntington, A. (2006). Deviant (M)others: The construction of teenage motherhood in contemporary discourse. Journal of Social Policy, 35(1), 59-76. doi: 10.1017/S0047279405009335

Woodward, L., Fergusson, D. M., & Horwood, L. J. (2001). Risk factors and life processes associated with teenage pregnancy: Results of a prospective study from birth to 20 years. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(4), 1170-1184. doi: