The New Zealand Family from 1840: A Demographic History

Ian Pool, Arunachalam Dharmalingam & Janet Sceats


'. . . the book makes an invaluable contribution to the development of policies that have an impact on the family, and it is likely to remain without peer in New Zealand as a critical reference source for many years.’ – Len Cook, Population Studies


The New Zealand Family From 1840 is a definitive history of the changing New Zealand family from colonial times, written by leading demographer Ian Pool and colleagues.

Not merely a collection of statistics, it interprets the changing story of the family and its makeup, its members and its reach at a time when interest in the family is keen. Using detailed research spanning 165 years, the authors chart the transitions from the large family of the nineteenth century to the ‘Baby Boom’, the increase in family diversity, and the modern trend towards unsustainably small families. This analysis of our society’s ‘building blocks’ helps us to trace changing attitudes and the structure of society itself, by noting the reasons for and consequences of the demographic changes the book describes.

The New Zealand Family’s account of the history of family and whanau is important for recording the past but even more important for its implications for the future. As the authors conclude, ‘the family may fail New Zealand because in many ways New Zealand has failed its families’ – this book tells that story.

Studying the New Zealand Family, a monograph on the methodology used in the book, and The New Zealand Family from 1840: Tables, which presents the raw data, are also available for download as PDFs below.




Ian Pool is one of New Zealand’s leading social scientists and professor of demography at the University of Waikato. Arunachalam Dharmalingam is senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Monash University. Janet Sceats is a medical demographer and the managing director of Portal Consulting and Associates Ltd.


June 2007, 240 x 150 mm, 474 pages, figures
Paperback, ISBN 9781869403577, $49.99