Sole parenting

The latest material added to the Australian Institute of Family Studies library database is displayed, up to a maximum of 30 items. Where available online, a link to the document is provided. Many items can be borrowed from the Institute's library via the Interlibrary loan system.

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Financial stress and social security settings in Australia

Phillips B and Narayanan V
Canberra, ACT : ANU Centre for Social Research & Methods, 2021.
This paper looks at the current state of financial stress and poverty in Australia. It examines emerging trends and trends over recent decades and through the COVID-19 period, as well as financial stress and poverty of people by different type of social security payment, family, housing tenure, and region. The study finds that though financial stress has declined over recent decades across the whole population, the situation has worsened over the last 30 years for people receiving working age social security payments such as the disability support pension, Carer Payment, Parenting Payment and JobSeeker. Child poverty rates have also increased - from 13.9% in 1993 to 17.5% in 2017. The paper also presents estimates on where additional funding for social security would best be spent and what impact such spending could have.

Moms' time - married or not

Hamermesh D
Cambridge, Mass. : National Bureau of Economic Research, 2021.
"Using time-diary data from the U.S. and six wealthy European countries, I demonstrate that non-partnered mothers spend slightly less time performing childcare, but much less time in other household activities than partnered mothers. Unpartnered mothers' total work time - paid work and household production - is slightly less than partnered women's. In the U.S. but not elsewhere they watch more television and engage in fewer other leisure activities. These differences are independent of any differences in age, race/ethnicity, ages and numbers of children, and household incomes. Non-partnered mothers feel slightly more pressured for time and much less satisfied with their lives. Analyses using the NLSY79 show that mothers whose partners left the home in the past two years became more depressed than those whose marriages remained intact. Coupled with evidence that husbands spend substantial time in childcare and with their children, the results suggest that children of non-partnered mothers receive much less parental care - perhaps 40 percent less - than other children; and most of what they receive is from mothers who are less satisfied with their lives."--Author abstract.

Moms' time - married or not

Hamermesh D
Bonn, Germany : IZA, 2020.
Though previous research has looked at mothers' partner status, time allocation and quality of life, none has examined all three issues together. This new study unites these issues, drawing on longitudinal data from America and with comparisons with Europe. It explores such topics as how differences in the allocation of time by marital status alter mothers' happiness, how mothers' use of time affects their feelings of time being scarce, how these feelings relate to the presence or absence of a partner in the household, and the parenting children receive. The findings show that non-partnered mothers spend slightly less time performing childcare, but much less time in other household activities than partnered mothers. Unpartnered mothers' total work time - paid work and household production - is slightly less than partnered women's. In America but not elsewhere they watch more television and engage in fewer other leisure activities. These differences are independent of any differences in age, race/ethnicity, ages and numbers of children, and household incomes. Non-partnered mothers feel slightly more pressured for time and much less satisfied with their lives. Mothers whose partners left the home in the past two years became more depressed than those whose marriages remained intact. Coupled with evidence that husbands spend substantial time in childcare and with their children, the results suggest that children of non-partnered mothers receive much less parental care - perhaps 40% less - than other children; and most of what they receive is from mothers who are less satisfied with their lives.

How Australian welfare reforms shape low-income single mothers' food provisioning practices and their children's nutritional health.

Jovanovski N and Cook K
Critical Public Health v. 30 no. 3 2020: 340-351
This article looks at the impact of recent welfare-to-work reforms on single mothers' ability to feed their families. It draws on interviews with 30 low-income single mothers receiving the Parenting Payment Single pension, the Disability Support Pension, or the Newstart Allowance for the unemployed. The participants discussed job seeker obligations, being transferred to different payment types with different rates and requirements, planning meals on a low budget, meeting children's nutritional needs, and coping strategies like going hungry themselves. The findings highlight the impact of stringent welfare requirements and policies on these women's time and budgets and the emotional and nutritional toll of trying to provide food for children at the same time.

Cost of living 2020

Western Australian Council of Social Service
West Leederville, WA : WACOSS, 2020.
This annual series models the cost of living for vulnerable households in Western Australia, drawing on data from the Financial Counselling Network. It examines the adequacy of income to meet costs, regional variations, and changes over the last 2 years, and focuses on key household types: a single parent family, a working family, an unemployed single person, a retired couple renting a house, and a retired couple who own their own house. This report presents data for 2019/20, which has been rendered more complex by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant changes to income support payments. For the first time, the modelling show the income of an unemployed single person household exceeding their basic living costs: the extra financial support provided under the COVID-19 interventions has had a significant positive impact and has enabled single people to cover the cost of living essentials and manage the ongoing increases in food and rent.

COVID-19 JobKeeper and JobSeeker impacts on poverty and housing stress under current and alternative economic and policy scenarios

Phillips B, Gray M and Biddle N
Canberra, ACT : ANU Centre for Social Research & Methods, 2020.
"Australia has been hit economically, as well as in health terms by the spread of COVID-19. There have been large declines in employment and hours worked, and dramatic restrictions on domestic and international trade. One of the main policy responses has been to increase payments to individuals and households. The major components of this are the temporary COVID Supplementary payment, which substantially increases working age income support payments of many of those who are not working, and the JobKeeper payment, which is a wage subsidy paid to eligible employers of eligible employees. The JobKeeper payment is designed to maintain the link employees have with their employer and to provide income support. In this paper, we estimate a range of measures of poverty and housing stress under different simulated scenarios related to the level of JobSeeker/JobKeeper payments and Australia's economic circumstances. We find that in aggregate terms these changes have reduced measures of poverty and housing stress, with both now below what they were prior to COVID-19. We find that the protective impact has been reduced somewhat by the July policy announcement to make these supplementary payments less generous and also that with the same level of expenditure a greater reduction in poverty and housing stress could have been achieved by a different payment allocation, and in particular by a slightly lower JobKeeper payment and higher other payments."--Author abstract.

Trampolines not traps: enabling economic security for single mothers and their children

Bowman D and Wickramasinghe S
Fitzroy, Vic. : Research & Policy Centre, Brotherhood of St. Laurence, 2020.
This paper investigates what reforms are needed to address the high rates of poverty among one parent families and proposes a framework to guide policy and program efforts. The paper draws on 27 single mothers from Victoria, examining how the government-administered payments of Child Care Subsidy, income support and Child Support helped or hindered their financial wellbeing and the intersections between work, care and social security. The mothers' highlighted issues of the struggle to make ends meet, the clash working more hours and losing income support and concessions, and the stress of a conditional and confusing social security system. Reform is required in multiple interrelated domains: not only in family-friendly, inclusive employment and flexible, affordable quality child care, but also in taxation, social security and child support policy.

Poipoia te kakano kia puawai: family structure, change and the wellbeing of tamariki Maori

Kukutai T, Prickett K, Atatoa-Carr P and Rata A
Wellington N.Z. : Ministry of Social Development, 2020.
This report examines family structure and change for Maori children, and the potential impacts for early childhood development and wellbeing. Though there is growing evidence that family structure has an impact on children's health and wellbeing and the intergenerational transmission of inequity, these effects vary by socio-economic context and across ethnic and racial groups. This report uses data from the New Zealand Longitudinal Census and the Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study. It finds that though most Maori children live in a stable two-parent family, they are more likely to spend some time in a sole parent household than other children, and diverse family trajectories are linked to poorer cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes. However, they are not the main driver: the most important predictors are mothers' education and age, material hardship, and neighbourhood deprivation. The study also finds that cultural connectedness promotes socio-emotional development: as diverse family trajectories are associated with higher levels of cultural connectedness among Maori children, it serves a protective role.

Child poverty, child maintenance and interactions with social assistance benefits among lone parent families: a comparative analysis

Hakovirta M
Luxembourg : LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg, 2019.
"In many developed countries, lone parent families face high rates of child poverty. Among those lone parents who do get child maintenance there is a hidden problem. States may retain all, or a proportion, of the maintenance that is paid in order to offset other fiscal costs. Thus, the potential of child maintenance to alleviate poverty among lone parent families may not be fully realized, especially if the families are also in receipt of social assistance benefits. This paper provides an original comparative analysis exploring the effectiveness of child maintenance to reduce child poverty among lone parent families in receipt of social assistance. It addresses the question of whether effectiveness is compromised once interaction effects (such as the operation of a child maintenance disregard) are taken into account in four countries - Australia, Finland, Germany and the UK - using the LIS dataset (2013). It raises important policy considerations and provides evidence to show that if policy makers are serious about reducing child poverty, they must understand how hidden mechanisms within interactions between child maintenance and social security systems can work as effective cost recovery tools for the state, but have no poverty reduction impact."--Author abstract.

Financial hardship: an examination of debt and poverty amongst 1900+ users of a financial counselling service

Better Place Australia Mediation and Counselling
Cheltenham, Vic. : Better Place Australia, 2019
This report presents insights into the nature of poverty and debt among low income people and the considerations for service policy and practice. It analyses the case files of the 1,983 clients who accessed Better Place Australia's Financial Counselling and Capability Building service in 2017/18, supplemented with a survey of counsellors in 2019. The report discusses the characteristics of clients, contributors to financial stress, needed additional support services, the most common reasons clients delay asking for help, mental health issues, gender and the feminisation of poverty, cultural diversity and cultural debt, recurrent debt, and poverty and lending practices. The findings highlight the varied circumstances and needs of clients. Though single mother households remain the most vulnerable group, many of the clients were well-educated and employed and only a small proportion were on welfare.

Life on Newstart Allowance : a new reality for low-income single mothers.

McKenzie H, McHugh C and McKay F
Journal of Family Studies v. 25 no. 1 2019: 18-33
In 2013, welfare support policies for single parents changed in Australia, with many low income mothers moving from a parenting payment to the Newstart Allowance - a payment for jobseekers with stricter conditions and less money. This article explores the financial impact of this policy change, drawing on interviews with 23 women who had been moved to the Newstart scheme.

Is Australia experiencing an epidemic of loneliness?: findings from 16 waves of the Household Income and Labour Dynamics of Australia Survey

Relationships Australia
Australia : Relationships Australia, 2018.
Social connection is a key factor in shaping wellbeing across the life course, and deficits in feelings of belonging are associated with a range of poor mental, physical and socio-economic outcomes. This paper adds to what is known about loneliness, drawing on longitudinal data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. It investigates the prevalence and persistence of loneliness, examines the relationship between personal characteristics and loneliness, and looks into loneliness across the transition into retirement to explore the possible impacts of demographic ageing on the prevalence of loneliness. The Index of Social Support is also assessed against a single-item measures of loneliness, and findings compared to that of other studies. Overall, the study finds that people are not lonely and they do not lack social support when surveyed at a single point in time. However, a substantial minority of people experience a lack of social support, and a substantial majority report emotional loneliness at some time in their life. A further small, but significant, proportion of people report a lack of social support or loneliness persistently. Lack of employment, receipt of income support, and low income were associated with high risk of loneliness. Single parents were most likely to experience a lack of social support: for single fathers in particular.

Welfare-to-work interventions and their effects on the mental and physical health of lone parents and their children (Review)

Gibson M, Thomson H, Banas K, Lutje V, McKee M, Martin S, Fenton C, Bambra C and Bond L
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews no. 2 2018: Article no. CD009820
This systematic review assesses the evidence on the impact of 'Welfare-to-work' interventions on the health of lone parents and their children. Lone parents in wealthy countries experience high levels of poverty and ill health, and opinion is divided on whether welfare to work initiatives would alleviate or exacerbate this situation. The article looks into what is known about the impact of such programs on parent or child physical or mental health, as well as economic outcomes such as employment, income, and welfare receipt. The review identified 12 random controlled trials from overseas. Overall, the review concludes that such interventions are unlikely to improve the health of lone parents and their children, and have only small impacts on economic outcomes.

Obligations and sanctions rapid evidence review. Paper 8, Work obligations for sole parents and outcomes for children

New Zealand. Ministry of Social Development, New Zealand. Welfare Expert Advisory Group
Wellington, N.Z. : Ministry of Social Development, 2018.
This report summarises the evidence on whether work obligations for sole parents receiving welfare benefits impact upon children's outcomes. It outlines research from New Zealand and overseas on how New Zealand policy settings compare, the effects of work obligations for sole parents, and the generalisability of these findings to the New Zealand setting. Overall, the international evidence does not offer any firm guidance, with mixed findings on the effects of work obligations for sole parents on outcomes for children and unclear evidence on the impact of implementing overseas settings in New Zealand. This paper was prepared for the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, which has been established to review how the welfare system in New Zealand can be improved.

Relationships between parents and young teens.

Yu M and Baxter J
Growing Up in Australia, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children - annual statistical report 2017. Melbourne : Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2018: 35-46
Family relationships remain central to children's lives during early adolescence, despite an increased focus on peers, and remain positive for many adolescents. This chapter explores the quality of adolescents' relationships with parents, in terms of their enjoyment in spending time with their parents, their closeness to their parents, who they talk to when they have a problem, and parents' reports of conflict with the child. It uses data from 'Growing Up in Australia, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children' (LSAC), comparing young people at 10-11, 12-13, and 14-15 years of age, and comparing findings by child gender, parent gender, socioeconomic status, puberty stage, and for one parent and step-families. The study finds that most young people held positive views about their relationships with their parents, though the quality of this relationship decreased slightly over time and varied slightly by gender. Though relatively low levels of conflict between children and parents were reported by parents, there were clear associations with the young people's reports of relationship quality. Note, this chapter has focused only on parent-child relationships within the household of the child's primary carer. Further research could consider relations with parents in a second household or the impact of family violence.

Who do adolescents spend their time with?

Baxter J
Growing Up in Australia, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children - annual statistical report 2017. Melbourne : Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2018: 25-34
As children leave childhood and enter adolescence, the amount of time they spend with family members declines and and relationships with peers become more central to their lives. Using self-report time use diaries from 'Growing Up in Australia, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children' (LSAC), this chapter looks at changes in how children spend their time at ages 10-11, 12-13, and 14-15 years of age. It examines time spent with parent, with siblings, with other adults, at school, with other children, and alone, and when during the day this time is spent. The data show that the amount of time young people spend with their parents declines substantially between the ages of 10-11 and 14-15: the time spent with siblings also declines. Actually, the time spent with other peers does not increase significantly over this period: instead, there is a significant increase in the amount of time young people spend alone. The chapter also considers some of the family factors associated with time spent and who it is spent with, including child and parent gender, parents' working hours, one parent families, and number of siblings. Further research could consider connecting with others via social media use.

Families and whanau status report 2018

SuPERU (New Zealand), New Zealand. Ministry of Social Development
Wellington, N.Z. : Ministry of Social Development, 2018
This series explores the measurement of family and whanau wellbeing in New Zealand, to help investigate how families and whanau are faring today, and presents findings from the work of the Government's Families and Whanau Wellbeing research programme. This 2018 report summarises keys research findings and themes and considers the future directions of the programme. Topics discussed include: family level data from the New Zealand Health Survey; differences in multiple disadvantage across region and ethnic group; exploratory look at multiple disadvantage and government spending; wellbeing of sole parents in New Zealand; growing the evidence base for whanau wellbeing; Maori housing and wellbeing; housing quality, health and whanau wellbeing; and use of the Whanau Rangatiratanga Framework to inform an evaluation of E Tu Whanau.

Child maintenance and social security interactions : the poverty reduction effects in model lone parent families across four countries.

Skinner C, Meyer D, Cook K and Fletcher M
Journal of Social Policy v. 46 no. 3 Jul 2017: 495-516
This article looks into one issue for child support schemes: how private child support payments can be counted against a parent's social security entitlements, thus effectively negating their aim to help reduce poverty in one parent families. The article examines the situation in four jurisdictions: Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Wisconsin in the United States. It looks at interactions between child maintenance systems and social security systems, and whether child maintenance amounts are affected by whether it is treated as a substitute for, or a complement to, cash benefits. The findings highlight the 'neutralising effects' of such policy settings.

Family structure and childhood mental disorders : new findings from Australia.

Perales F, Johnson S, Baxter J, Lawrence D and Zubrick S
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology v. 52 no. 4 Apr 2017: 423-433
This article investigates whether family structure is associated with mental disorders in childhood. Using data from Young Minds Matter, the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Well-being, it compares a range of mental disorders in children aged from 4 to 17 and the children's family arrangements, as well as time since any family separation. The findings indicate that children in one-parent, blended, and step families experience a higher prevalence of mental disorders than children living with two biological parents. Differences in anxiety disorders, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and conduct disorders are noted.

[Social Services Legislation Amendment Act 2017]

Alston P
Geneva, Switzerland : Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2017.
This letter, from the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, highlights concerns over Australia's new Social Services Legislation Amendment Act 2017. It highlights the potential negative impact of this social service reform and related amendments on the human rights of persons living in poverty, particularly single parents and their children. It discusses recent benefit cuts affecting single parent households in Australia, the impact of the Welfare to Work initiative on single parents, the history of recent legislative reforms, drug testing and suspension of payments, cashless debit card trials, and the potential impact of the 2017 Act on waiting periods for youth allowance and parenting payments and family tax benefits. Access to social security is a human right but this letter reiterates concerns of the current and former the Special Rapporteur that the further cutting of social security payments will have significantly negative impacts on the human rights of tens of thousands of Australians, many of whom are currently living in poverty.

Comparing child poverty risk by family structure during the 2008 recession

Rothwell D and McEwen A
Journal of Marriage and Family v. 79 no. 5 Oct 2017: 1224-1240
Research has found that children in non-married families are at great risk of poverty. This article investigates how market and policy forces shape this association, with a study of families from liberal welfare states during the 2008 recession. Data is taken from the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) for four non-married family types - cohabitating, single father-headed, single mother-headed, and single mother living with adults - in five countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It looks at the risk of poverty for these children as the recession commences, how risk compares across the five countries, the impact of transfers in offsetting child poverty, and whether these effects were distributed equally across the family types. Although these five countries share many similarities, the article finds considerable differences in child poverty risk based on marital status and gender of the household head.

Working sole parents and feminist perspectives on the intersection of gender and time.

Nockolds D
Journal of Sociology v. 53 no. 1 Mar 2017: 231-244
Time can be gendered, with women and men often experiencing time differently - sometimes conceptualised as men's independent economic time versus women's interdependent caring time. In light of such theories, this article investigates how time is perceived by working single parents - people juggling both full-time care and work. Interviews were conducted with 10 fathers and 17 mothers, exploring their experience of temporality through questions of how they coordinated care and paid work, how they felt about it, and the impact of losing their partner on their priorities and time. The findings add to the literature on gender and time.

The impact of child support on the household income and labour supply of payee lone mothers.

Fisher H
Economic Record v. 93 no. 301 Jun 2017: 189-213
This article estimates the impact of child support receipt on lone mothers' income and labour market activities, using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. Overall, the findings show that receiving any child support reduces government transfers, increases labour force participation, and increases household income - in excess of the amount of child support received. Furthermore, increasing the amount of child support received does not impact upon lone mothers' labour force participation or hours worked.

Lone parents, health, wellbeing and welfare to work : a systematic review of qualitative studies.

Campbell M, Thomson H, Fenton C and Gibson M
BMC Public Health v. 16 25 Feb 2016: Article 188
Lone parents on welfare experience poorer health and wellbeing than their peers. As this is possibly due to the high rates of poverty among this group, this article investigates whether 'welfare to work' and similar schemes can improve lone parents' health by raising their income. It reviews the literature on lone parents participation in welfare to work schemes from high income countries, and finds that participation produces a range of largely negative affects on health and wellbeing, due to conflict with child care responsibilities, stress from poorly paid and precarious work, increased stress and depression, and lack of control.

Impact of family structure and socio-demographic characteristics on child health and wellbeing in same-sex parent families : a cross-sectional survey.

Crouch S, McNair R and Waters E
Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health v. 52 no. 5 May 2016: 499-505
This article investigates the impact of family structure and socio-demographic characteristics on child health and wellbeing in same-sex parented families in Australia. Data is taken from a 2012 survey of self-identified same-sex attracted parents, to examine the relationship between biological relationship,stable parental relationship, parental gender, parental education, parental income, rural-urban location, and single-parent households with child health and wellbeing. The findings highlight that it is the stability of dual parent families - rather than their gender or biology - that offer good outcomes for children.

The effect of changing financial incentives on repartnering

Fisher H and Zhu A
Indooroopilly, Qld : Life Course Centre, Institute for Social Science Research, University of Queensland, 2016.
This paper investigates how a single parent's financial resources affects their repartnering. It studies a natural experiment in Australia in which government transfer payments were reduced for a subset of lone parents, as part of the Welfare-to-Work reforms of 2006. This bi-weekly administrative data of separations among low and middle income couples was supplemented with data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. The findings reveal that one way that lone mothers respond to a reduction in financial resources available at the time of relationship breakdown is by repartnering more quickly. The majority of this repartnering is reconciliation with the former partner, and the response is concentrated among mothers with low labour force attachment and those living in areas with high housing costs. These findings add to the international literature on the impact of policy on partnering decisions.

The family law implications of early contact between sperm donors and their donor offspring.

Kelly F and Dempsey D
Family Matters no. 98 2016: 56-63
Many jurisdictions have introduced legislation to ensure that donor-conceived adults can access their donor's identity. However, these laws are increasingly being used by the parents of donor-conceived children to make contact with donors while their children are still minors. This article considers the possible family law implications of such early contact, in particular whether the donor could ever be declared a legal parent or successfully apply for an order to spend time with the child. The article also presents findings from a study on parents' experiences of connecting with donors, which involved interviews with 25 single Australian women who conceived using donated sperm or embryos.

Sole-parent work schedules and adolescent wellbeing : evidence from Australia.

Dockery M, Li J and Kendall G
Social Science and Medicine v. 168 Nov 2016: 167-174
Research has shown that working nonstandard hours has a negative impact on not only a worker's health, but the health of their children too. This article investigates the impact on adolescent children in one-parent families. Using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, it examines the impact of parental work schedules - including weekend and night shifts - on the mental and physical health of adolescents aged 15?20, and the possible causes such as increased work-family conflict and low job control.

The effect of changing financial incentives on repartnering

Fisher H and Zhu A
Bonn, Germany : IZA, 2016.
"This paper examines how a reduction in the financial resources available to lone parents affects repartnering. We exploit an Australian natural experiment that reduced the financial resources available to a subset of separating parents. Using biweekly administrative data capturing separations occurring among low and middle income couples, we show that the policy reform significantly increased the repartnering hazard for affected separating mothers, especially those with low labour force attachment. Reconciliation with the woman's prior partner drives this result. Complementary analysis of an annual panel survey demonstrates that repartnering impacts are also present over the five years post-separation and that the impact on repartnering hazards is increasing in the extent of financial loss and the urgency of the impact. Together, these results demonstrate that one way that lone mothers respond to a reduction in financial resources available at the time of relationship breakdown is by repartnering more quickly."--Author abstract.

Security in retirement: the impact of housing and key critical life events

Sharam A, Ralston L and Parkinson S
Hawthorn, Vic. : Swinburne Institute for Social Research, 2016.
This study evaluates the degree to which Australian households are financially ready for retirement. In particular, it examines the impacts of life events such as partnering and divorce, which may have a major effect on the ability to obtain and remain in home ownership. Topic include the wealth holdings of men and women at midlife and retirement, wealth in households in different income and tenure circumstances, the use of the income and asset test to assess eligibility for the Age Pension, the impact of relationship status change on housing tenure, and the circumstances of lone person male, lone person female, single-parent, and couple-only households. Data is taken from a range of sources including the ABS Survey of Income and Housing, the Household, Income, Labour Dynamics Australia (HILDA) Survey, and interviews with divorcees who owned or who had been purchasing a home with their former partner. This research study was instigated by the rise in the number of older single women becoming homeless in Australia. It concludes with recommendations for policy.
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