Kiwi parents have surprised researchers with idealistic dreams for their children - even before they are born.
Expectant parents of about 7000 children born in Auckland and Waikato in 2009-10 told researchers they wanted their babies to "be the best person that they can be", "to do whatever he wants and not to struggle", or to "go for her dreams and let nothing stop her".
"They are extremely lofty ideals for an unborn child and we weren't really expecting that," said Otago University psychologist Professor Elaine Reese, who leads the educational domain in the long-term Growing Up in New Zealand study following those 7000 babies into adulthood.
"Most of the theories about parenting in terms of small babies' needs are physiological, and of course affection and warmth and love, but not anything as lofty as self-actualisation, so the fact that parents are already thinking about those aspirational goals before their babies are born was surprising."
The $3 million-a-year Growing Up study has already reported on the children's health and wellbeing up to 2 years old. The latest report, published in the Australian journal Family Matters, covers the last question asked in pre-birth interviews: "Please give us one or two sentences about the hopes, dreams and expectations you have for your baby."
Interviewers entered the parents' answers verbatim into a computer. Researchers first coded all the ideas in their answers into 27 topics, and then grouped them into the six levels of psychologist Abraham Maslow's "hierarchy of needs".
Predictably, the most-mentioned topic was the child's physical health, mentioned by 60 per cent of mothers and 53 per cent of partners, who in almost all cases were the father.
The child's emotional or psychological wellbeing was a close second for 54 per cent of mothers and 49 per cent of fathers. Hopes for education came third, mentioned by 27 per cent of mothers and 26 per cent of fathers.
The education comments were important because of evidence from other studies that children whose parents have higher educational expectations tend to do better at school. The study will test that theory as the children get older.
But Professor Reese said the surprising result was that 63 per cent of both mothers and fathers wanted their unborn children to reach level 5 in the Maslow hierarchy - "self-actualisation", or achieving their full potential as human beings.
And 16 per cent of mothers and 20 per cent of fathers mentioned hopes for "self-transcendence" - children going beyond their own fulfilment to contribute something to humanity.
The study found some cultural differences. Only Pacific mothers hoped their children would belong to a church, and European mothers were far more likely to hope their children would grow up to respect cultural diversity.
Lulu on track to fulfil hope for happiness
Lulu Brownfield carries high hopes from her parents - and at almost 6 they reckon she's on track to fulfilling them.
Both her mum, Kirsty Brownfield, and her dad, Joe Brownfield, say their first hopes are simply that she should be "happy and healthy".
But Joe adds: "I guess also, on top of that, that she takes the love that we give her and shares it with her part of the world, whatever she does in the future, you know. It's something that the world needs a bit more of as far as looking after each other. I hope that she does that and I think she will."
Kirsty, a Kiwi and a trained architect, met Joe, an American construction manager, in the United States. They had their first daughter Maggie, now 8, there. But they moved to Auckland in Maggie's first year to raise their daughters here.
"We moved here basically so they would have a better life, and I guess have better access to a good education and to good healthcare, to have a happy healthy home and be close to our family," says Kirsty.
In America both parents worked at least six days a week and got only two weeks' annual holiday. There was no parental leave and employers allowed mothers only six weeks off to have babies.
"I negotiated another six weeks, but I went back to work at 3 months [after Maggie]," says Kirsty. "It's just hard to put a little baby in daycare from 7.30am to 6pm."
In Auckland, she now manages an IT recruitment company which her father co-owns, and works flexible hours so she can pick the girls up from school two days a week. She employs several other mothers with flexible part-time hours.