Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Maori parents count most support

Research looks at New Zealanders’ networks of family and friends.
Corrin Philipp with her partner, Waiz Nepia, their son, Christian Nepia, 10 (blue shirt) and nephew, Karlos Sepia,11(grey shirt). Photo / Michael Craig
Corrin Philipp with her partner, Waiz Nepia, their son, Christian Nepia, 10 (blue shirt) and nephew, Karlos Sepia,11(grey shirt). Photo / Michael Craig

Two-parent Maori families have more supportive friends and family than any other New Zealanders, research has found.

Almost half (48 per cent) of all Maori people surveyed told Statistics NZ's General Social Survey they have more than 10 family members and friends who "help and support" them by providing emotional support, lending or giving them things, helping out with tasks or chores and giving information or advice.

Forty-two per cent of Europeans, 39 per cent of Pacific people and 31 per cent of Asians counted such an extensive network.

The survey of 8975 people found that life satisfaction increased in line with supportive friends and family, from 60 per cent for those with no support network up to 89 per cent for those with support groups of more than 10.

As well, loneliness fell from 14 per cent of those with no supportive friends or family to 2 per cent for those with more than 10.

Most New Zealanders have wide networks: 42 per cent have more than 10 supportive friends and family members; 43 per cent between five and 10; 10 per cent three or four; 5 per cent one or two; and only 1 per cent have none.

More than half (56 per cent) have supportive neighbours.

As with most positive things measured in social surveys, networks are stronger for people who are better educated and better off. More than half (51 per cent) of people with bachelor's degrees or above have more than 10 supportive friends and family members, compared with 31 per cent of people with no qualifications.

Similar patterns can be seen in income and employment.

Statistics NZ analyst Dr Rosemary Goodyear said people built support networks through education and work.

"When you look at people who are unemployed or not in the labour force, they have a lot fewer supportive friends and family," she said.

Couples, who bring together both partners' networks, have more supportive friends and relatives than sole parents and single people.

Couples with children, who add their children's friends' families, are even more likely to have big networks.

Regionally, Aucklanders have the smallest social networks, with 35 per cent having more than 10 supportive friends and family members.

Dr Goodyear said this was partly because long-term migrants were less likely than NZ-born citizens to have wide support networks, although recent migrants were more likely to have big support groups - perhaps because they are younger.

"It could be just that smaller places are more intimate communities," she said. "Or it's possibly the fact that Auckland is so large that people are spending a lot of time commuting. That could have an effect on people's relationships."

Favourite auntie and uncle role models for whanau

Whanau has no hard boundaries for West Auckland couple Waiz Nepia and Corrin Philipp.

Their Ranui house is officially home to themselves and their two children Keisha, 13, and Christian, 10.

But when the Herald caught up with them yesterday they were also looking after nephew Karlos Nepia, 11, and at other times they will have any number of other children.

"One sister has 11 kids, the other has six," said Ms Philipp, 35.

"We are like the favourite aunty and uncle and we always have kids with us. We love having family get-togethers with hangi."

The couple come from what Mr Nepia described as "a kind of rough upbringing".

"I had no father figures or anything like that," he said. "I've got a really, really big family, there's a lot of us. They all want to follow the same way as us because they can see how happy we are."

A former labourer, Mr Nepia now looks after the children so that Ms Philipp can work for Te Whanau O Waipareira Trust's Incredible Years parenting programme, which both parents took as participants in 2013-14.

They have also done other Waipareira programmes, taken part in its sports days, helped out at their local Birdwood School and have coached their kids' sports teams. Ms Philipp also helps run a mothers' group in Ranui.

"We go for a walk around the neighbourhood, we can walk and talk and eat at the same time," she said. "It's just good to talk. Mothers love talking."

- NZ Herald

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