By 3 News online staff
Questions have been raised whether country's support services are effectively targeting those most in need following the release of new research today.
The Growing up in New Zealand study says only one in five families whose children could become vulnerable access social support in the child's first 1000 days of life.
University of Auckland associate professor Susan Morton says experiencing "persistent exposure to adversity" in early life has a negative impact on children's health and behaviour.
"It is a real concern to see that the majority of families who are potentially most in need of support during their children's early years are not connected to social service providers," she says.
"[The information] raises questions about how current support services are able to be targeted to those most in need, and challenges us to do better to enable support to reach our most vulnerable children from early in their lives."
The study is following almost 7000 children from before birth until adulthood, and utilises a set of 12 "risk factors", including:
More than one in eight of the children experienced four or more of these factors at any time point – while in the womb, at nine months or two years – and were classified as being "highly vulnerable" at that point in time.