Audio transcript: Family violence, separated parents and fathering: Empirical insights and intervention challenges

CFCA webinar - 24 July 2014

Seminar facilitated & speaker introduced by Rachel Carson

Audio transcript (edited)


Good afternoon and welcome to this Child Family Community Australia webinar focusing on family violence, separated parents and fathering - empirical insights and intervention and challenges. My name is Rachel Carson and I'm a Research Fellow here in the Family Law and Family Violence Team at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. I'd like to begin my acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we are meeting, I pay my respects to their Elders past and present and to the Elders from other communities who maybe participating today. It is my pleasure to chair this webinar about recent research projects relevant to family violence and fathering.

We will first hear from Dr Rae Kaspiew who is a socio-legal researcher with particular expertise in family law and family violence, and she is a Senior Research Fellow managing the family law research program here at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Rae specialises in the design and implementation of research programs related to the impact of legislation and dispute resolution programs including the Survey of Recently Separated Parents 2012, which she will be speaking about today. In addition to her role here at the institute, Rae is a member of the Family Law Council, which is a body that provides policy advice on family law to the Federal Attorney-General. Rae's presentation today will explore the extent, severity, impact and disclosure of family violence that emerged in the Survey of Recently Separated Parents 2012, which was a study that was aimed at identifying opportunities for improving support for children and their families in the post separation context.

Rae will be followed by Cathy Humphreys who is a Professor of Social Work at the University of Melbourne. Cathy holds the Alfred Felton Chair in Child and Family Welfare which is a Chair that is now supported through the Sector Research Partnership which is a collaboration with the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare and a consortium of 14 Victorian community sector organisations that are driving research in the children, youth and families area. Cathy's research in the field of domestic and family violence incudes projects on substance use, mental health, child abuse, multiagency working and reform and the research that she will be discussing today is an Australian Research Council funded project investigating family violence and fathering programs. Cathy's presentation will consider the state of knowledge around family violence and fathering programs and the challenges involved when the issue of men's relationships with children are raised in the context of family violence.

Before I hand over to our presenters I would just like to remind everyone that has registered for this webinar that you are able to submit questions at any time during this webinar via the chat box. There will be a limited amount of time at the conclusion of the presentations when our presenters will be able to respond to your questions, and we will endeavour to address as many of your questions as possible. The presentations are being recorded and the recording and presentation slides will be made available on the CFCA website in due course. There will also be a post webinar forum on the CFCA website to enable a continuation of the discussions and the opportunity for further questions and Ken of CFCA will email further information about this to everyone registered after this webinar later this afternoon. In the meantime please give Rae and Cathy a very warm virtual welcome.


Thanks very much for that introduction Rachel. I must say I'm delighted to have the opportunity to present this webinar with Professor Humphreys whose work in this area is extremely well respected and well known and I think the mix of topics that we've got today is particularly interesting and of great interest to our audience. I'd also like to say a warm hello to everybody out there who's listening and to say thank you for participating in this webinar. Today I'm going to be sharing insights from a quantitative study of separated parents that we have conducted that has examined in great depth and detail, experiences of family violence before and after separation and patterns in service use. I just need to let you know that the views expressed today in this paper are our views as researchers; they're not the views of the Australian Institute of Family Studies or the Australian Government.

So I'm going to first start by discussing quite briefly some longer term insights from the longitudinal study of separated families which show us what the experience of family violence and safety concerns look like for a cohort of separated parents five years after separation. I'm then going to give you more information on the extent and severity from a different study, the Survey of Recently Separated Parents 2012. These studies contribute to our family law and family violence research program and are funded by the Australian Attorney-General's Department. The earlier two waves of LSSF was co-funded by FaHCSIA as it then was. So I'm just going to talk through some findings quite quickly from LSSF Wave 3. So these tell us about the experiences of almost 10,000 separated parents who were interviewed for the third wave some five years after separation. The data was collected between September and November 2012. Two-thirds of the focus children in this study were aged between 5 and 11.

So basically we found that the reported experiences of emotional abuse over the three waves did diminish wave by wave. However by Wave 3 there were still significant proportions of fathers and mothers reporting the continuation of exposure to emotional abuse five years after separation. So we see that 43 per cent of mothers and 38 per cent of fathers told us in Wave 3 that they had been the recipient of emotional abuse by their former partner in the preceding 12 months. A quarter of all parents, more mothers than fathers, reported experiencing emotional abuse in all three survey waves. So this behaviour can be quite sustained for some parents, significant minorities of parents. In contrast to emotional abuse we find that physical hurt diminishes significantly and by Wave 3 only 2.2 per cent of mothers and 1.5 per cent of fathers reported experiencing physical hurt in the preceding 12 months. And that was down from a quarter of mothers and just under a fifth of fathers in Wave 1.

Looking now at safety concerns, the extent to which parents held safety concerns for themselves or their child as a result of ongoing contact with the other parent. I think the interesting finding is that around a fifth of parents in each survey wave reported experiencing safety concerns and there was a core group of about 5 per cent, more mothers than fathers, who held safety concerns across the three waves. So that's safety concerns for themselves or their child sustained over five years post separation. I'm now turning to speak about the Survey of Recently Separated Parents 2012 which adopted a similar methodology and a similar sampling frame to the longitudinal study of separated families but differed in the sense that we asked much more detailed questions about the severity and impact of family violence and safety concerns and the way that parents had interacted with family law system services around these concerns.

So this was a study where we interviewed just over 6000 separated parents whose separations occurred between 2010 and 2011 and their experience thus reflects the family law system in 2011. So this was before the implementation of the Family Violence Reforms that came into effect on July 7, 2012 via amendments to the Family Law Act. I'm now just going to discuss some of the findings on intensity and impact and as I have said, this is very new knowledge in that we haven't had these insights of this detailed nature previously. So just letting you know what we asked and what we mean by emotional abuse before or during separation.

It covers things like using the telephone and car, contacting family and friends, knowing about or having access to family money and those are all issues where there are prevention tactics that come into play. We also looked at threats to harm and these included pets, the children, other family or friends, themselves and the respondent, to the person who we're talking about. We asked about attempts to force unwanted sexual activity, and we also asked about threats to damage and destroy property. So you will see that both men and women reported experiencing these kinds of emotional abuse but in most categories but not all women experienced more of this kind of abuse than men, and there are some areas where the differences are particularly marked, for example in attempts to force unwanted sexual activity, and in relation to threats against family and friends for example as well.

I'm now just going to give you an overview of how we assessed intensity. We derived an intensity score out of these data that looked at the number of types of these kinds of emotional abuse that were experienced together with the frequency with which they were experienced before or during separation. And we were able to derive a score based on combining those two assessments into a sort of a scale. You will find this slide depicts intensity, the triangle on the left is the reports of men, the triangle in the middle is the reports of women and the triangle on the right is all people that we interviewed. And I think what's interesting is that we will see that there is a continuum of intensity with small proportions at the top who have a high score, quite a significantly high score, indicating several different types of abuse being experienced quite frequently over time.

And then there are lower levels of intensity with for example a lower score in that dark green segment where we have fewer types of abuse experienced less frequently. I think what's interesting not only is the continuum, the variation in the intensity with which this kind of abuse is experienced but it's also interesting that in the lower levels the discrepancies between men and women are not as great as they are in the higher levels, where we have in the highest level more than double women reporting the highest level of intensity as compared with men.

Moving on it's a similar pattern since separation, I'll deal with this quite quickly, but there are fewer people in those very top levels of intensity after separation. So separation reduces their exposure to the very intensest levels of emotional abuse. Thinking now about impact, we found that most parents who reported being subjected to emotional or physical abuse also reported an impact and the impacts we discussed were issues such as experiencing an impact on mental health, on ability to carry out day to day activities, on their ability to go to work, on feelings of confidence and security, and we found that more women than men reported two or more impacts. So there's a sense that there's a greater level of impact experienced by women. The area where more fathers than mothers reported impacts were on being adversely affected in carrying out employment or study but that tended to reflect the fact that men were engaged to a greater extent in those activities anyway, remembering that this is a cohort with young children.

Now looking at disclosure and the things that parents told us about whether they had told anybody about the emotional and physical violence. We find that if we look at this slide, the men are the dark red bar and the women are the yellow bar, and the first set of bars applies to before or during separation and the other set of bars applies to since separation. And we find that actually I'm sorry I need to correct something I've just said because part of my slide is obscured. Women are red and men are yellow, so we find that women tend to disclose more than men and these disclosures, the questions covered a range of professionals including police, doctors and so forth, and we found that mostly people tended, the most common set of disclosures were made to police but it is significant if you look at these data that significant minorities of women and even greater proportions of men didn't disclose at all.

We asked our parents why they didn't disclose and the most common answer was that they felt it was not serious enough to report, with around 40 per cent kind of nominating that answer. And around a fifth felt that they could deal with the issues themselves. We found overall that parents were more likely to disclose child safety concerns or concerns around their own safety and their child's safety to professionals as compared with family violence. We also found that in relation to family violence there was a range of responses by parents, some parents considered substantial minorities or in the case of women, some parents, the majorities of parents reported that their concerns were taken seriously and dealt with appropriately, but there were still significant proportions of parents, so a quarter or almost 40 per cent whose concerns were acknowledged but not considered relevant. And smaller proportions who said that their concerns were ignored or not taken seriously at all. In relation to safety concerns the picture is generally the same as for family violence but I will note that the patterns in the data actually suggest a less decisive response, a slightly less decisive response in relation to safety concerns as compared with disclosures of family violence.

Moving now to children, family violence and safety concerns, I want to discuss more closely the way that children are affected by the emotional and physical abuse that has occurred in their families. And this first slide shows us whether or not parents reported that their children had witnessed the abuse. So you will see that majorities of parents, well majorities of mothers and substantial minorities of fathers said that children did witness both kinds of physical and emotional abuse in both time periods, before and during separation and since separation. Turning now to look at the extent to which parents reports suggested that behaviour problems for their children were associated with the experience of physical or emotional abuse. This slide tells us the number of behavioural problems for 1 to 3 year old children in the families and it analyses the number of problems by parents reports of having experienced family violence since separation. In this slide higher scores mean more difficulty for the children and we'll find that the data quite clearly show that where parents have reported physical hurt or emotional abuse, there are a greater number of behavioural problems for their children reported.

This slide is quite a complicated one to read, but basically what it shows us is that where parents have reported that children have witnessed family violence their reports of their child's wellbeing, the extent to which they're satisfied with various aspects of their child's wellbeing including their behaviour, this shows that where parents have reported their children witnessed physical or emotional abuse, their levels of satisfaction are lower than for parents where their children have not witnessed family violence of emotional abuse. We also find that families where children have been exposed either directly or indirectly to family violence since separation, their parents report higher number of behaviours that tend to suggest a lack of emotional and psychological ease in those children. So for example we see that significantly higher numbers of fathers and mothers reported that their children were agitated or upset when parting from them where they had experienced or witnessed physical or emotional abuse.

Just to move onto a short summary before Professor Humphreys gives her presentation. It's significant I think that these studies show that for a significant proportion of parents, emotional abuse continues well beyond separation, we know that from LSSF Wave 3, and we also now understand that for around 5 per cent of parents, safety concerns for themselves or their child persist across the three waves over five years. We find on the basis of the SRSP data that the experience of violence varies in intensity and impact, ti's notable that gendered patters are particularly evident at the most severe end of the spectrum and that women are more likely to report two or more impacts compared with men.

We find that substantial proportions of parents don't disclose other than to family and friends. We also found that uneven patterns of behaviour were evident among professionals in eliciting and responding to disclosures. We found that safety concerns were disclosed more frequently than a history of family violence but there tended to be a slightly less satisfactory response from the parents' perspective in relation to safety concerns. We also find that child wellbeing is negatively affected by family violence, living in a home where family violence occurs and witnessing family violence results in reduced wellbeing for children and it seems that the recency of the experience is particularly connected with lower wellbeing.

I just want to acknowledge the parents that we spoke to, the Attorney-General's Department who funded both of those studies and FaHCSIA or DSS as it now is who provided funding for the first two waves of the LSSF, and also various colleagues who have been involved in this work over a very long period of time. I'd now like to invite Cathy Humphreys to begin her presentation.


So thank you Rae, it was so interesting hearing that presentation, I feel like asking a whole load of questions myself right now rather than going on with my own presentation. So in relation to the presentation that I'm doing, I was invited by the institute to talk about a new program of work that a group of colleagues and I are doing in the area of fathering and domestic violence, domestic and family violence. We're having a little trouble with the title, we're about six months into the project so what I'll be reporting on is really quite recent and really just talking about some of the issues arising from the literature review.

We are sort of struggling a little with the title so we're talking about fathers respond but we're also wondering about fathering responsibly, and we wanted to keep this fairly difficult strap line of responsive reparative responsible fathering in the context of domestic and family violence because it seemed to when we are talking with all the partners involved that they wanted to capture some of the elements that we were wanting to reflect when thinking about the issues for fathers who have been involved in domestic violence. Particularly I guess the notion of reparative, people wanted to keep that in there even though it is a bit of a mouthful because a lot of the fathering or parenting programs don't necessarily at the moment or as they stand at the moment, deal with the notion of reparation and that is in a way what differentiates this space a little bit from other areas of more general parenting programs.

So this is an ARC linkage grant, it is led from University of Melbourne with myself, Dr Kristin Diemer, Professor Kelsey Hegarty, Donna Chung and Alan Campbell from over at Curtain University, and Leah Bromfield from University of South Australia. We've got three government departments involved, so in linkage grants a lot of people put in money and then that is then also match funded from the Australian Research Council. And so we also had 20 NGOs and peak bodies who've been involved in supporting the project. I think that the fact that we've got about 26 partners involved in this project is indicative of what a challenging topic it is and I guess a recognition that people feel that they need to be doing more in this area around fathering issues and domestic violence.

So in terms of the precursors to the research, I'd been previously involved in a program called "Talking to my mum" which involved strengthening the mother/child relationships in the aftermath of domestic and family violence, and I have to say that in presenting over a number of years about that program of work and the activities that we developed as part of that program of work, that there was rarely an occasion where I wasn't asked, "And what about the fathers?" And so it was clear that there was a gap in relation to thinking about the issues for fathers where there was domestic violence and particularly when the men were perpetrating the violence.

We also found that previous research showed that many men on men's behaviour change programs engaged most strongly with the issues of fathering, that the engagement strategy, the motivation to change actually often came from their thinking about their children. We also found when we've been doing some work on men's behaviour change programs in Australia that many of these men are now being referred from Child Protection or from Family Relationship Centres, that is that in fact they're not really being referred necessarily for the violence directly about women but for the impact of that violence on their children. And I guess we had concerns that most of the programs they were being referred to don't actually address much in relation to parenting or fathering and so there seems a mismatch between the referral sources and the issues that men are being referred for.

Just to pause a moment, I just wanted to say something about the gendered nature of domestic and family violence and I guess that this is an issue that Rae was also raising and that had emerged from her data as well. That what was clear including from Rae's data that she's just been showing was that a significant amount of emotional and physical abuse is reported by both men and women. However and this is consistent not just in Australia but internationally as well, when severity is taken into account, issues like living in fear, the chronic nature of abuse and the level of physical and sexual harm particularly resulting in medical injury and hospitalisation, that that's where we see the gendered patterns emerging with women more severely abused. I guess too that when we're looking at severity that's also where we have the greatest concerns about children.

We also know that there are some women and children who are more profoundly affected, women and children living in poverty tend to be about three times more likely to be living with domestic violence or have experienced domestic violence, women with disabilities and Aboriginal women and their children are particularly vulnerable to experiences of violence. There's also been issues raised about the fathering issues in relation to for children where there's domestic violence. These aren't large-scale studies and a lot of them are drawn from research on men's behaviour change programs or perpetrator programs. When the research has been done both quantitative and qualitative research tends to be that these men are more likely to have a very authoritarian parenting style and that there's a trend in the data about them getting angry more often and a greater use of corporal punishment.

In relation to children and young people they have also been reporting their own experiences as well, that their relationship with their father is a source of great confusion for them. That they feel a wide range of feelings in relation to their fathers; they feel fear, anger and sadness. And there's a group of children that do miss their fathers very much following separation despite the experiences of abuse, though there is also a group of children who want to live without fear and who find child contact re-traumatising or very difficult.

When we were looking at this program of work around fathering and domestic violence we didn't want to just keep it to men's behaviour change programs. They were clearly the original source of an impetus for the development of research in this area but as soon as we began talking about it we also realised that there's quite a large group of programs which are working with vulnerable mothers and fathers and where there are issues of violence and abuse. So you think about programs such as the new PIN program, that works quite closely with men as well as women and many of those men are and have been engaged in domestic violence. So there are some programs working with vulnerable families which seem to be relevant in relation to thinking about how they were managing and thinking about the issues of fathering.

There were also we know a lot of development within the Aboriginal healing programs about men, domestic violence and fathering. So we developed a program of research with three different strands with a view to thinking about whether there can be cross fertilisation of ideas and cross learning between the different programs that are already on offer. And so we've started and we're just six months into the project where we've done the initial literature review and starting to develop some of the documentation from some of the programs in Australia and internationally about how they're managing the issues of fathering. But there will be over the next three years an audit of programs in Australia that are working with fathers where there's domestic violence. We'll be also surveying men in many of these programs as well as their partners or ex partners and we also have a program of work with children about how we get children's voices into the work in this area because they have very strong views about their expectations of their fathers.

So we have a number of research questions, how do men's behaviour change programs, Aboriginal programs, and fathering programs address the issues of fathering in the context of family violence, how and under what circumstances are fathers who use violence parenting, and what are the key fathering issues that need to be addressed. We've got some anticipated outcomes from the program, one of which is trying to develop the Australian foundational knowledge about how and under what circumstances fathers who have used domestic and family violence are parenting. I think that there are some myths about the fact that many of these men don't have contact with their children. Our experience from some initial work on men's behaviour change programs is that most men seem to be having contact with children either directly or indirectly, either their own children or their current partner's children.

And we're hoping to develop standards and guidance for practice and working with men where there's domestic and family violence to improve parenting experiences of children and the safety of women and to respond to men who are often quite clearly saying that they would like to have some support with changes to their fathering practices. The work on the initial review of programs and of the literature review was undertaken by Donna Chung and Alan Campbell from Curtain University, and particularly Kristin Diemer and myself have also worked closely with them in this review of programs.

In terms of the review questions we have just a series of questions that we were asking of the literature and of the programs that are being talked about in the literature or else which are coming out of the grey literature around reports. Issues like how is domestic and family violence being assessed, what issues are covered in programs, what are the knowledge and underpinnings, what are the practice interventions, the tools and methods, what's the success of the programs, is success being measured, what's our definition of success. What we found was that many programs protect their curriculum and so it makes it quite difficult to gain a full picture of what's occurring in different group settings in this area. And in many ways that's understandable due to the intellectual property, but it also makes it hard to get some assessment of the area.

Also a lot of the work initially in these programs came from our interests in men's behaviour change programs because this is an area where the evidence base is very unclear and it's also an area that's quite difficult to evaluate because it isn't as though all men's behaviour change programs are the same, there's a whole lot of different theoretical orientations. So you have quite a strong pro feminist lot of programs that are focused on issues of power and control and the cycle of abuse, these would be broadly called the Duluth Models and they've been most frequently drawn from in the US and Europe. But there's then also particularly developing in Europe cognitive behavioural change programs where the focus is on challenging beliefs and value systems, there are also ones that are based on psychodynamic approaches which focus on the men's history and family of origin.

In Australia as well we've got quite a strong program development that's derived from Alan Jenkins' works and narrative approaches so that this has been a strong strand of work in the Australian sector but which is also being picked up quite extensively overseas as well. Most programs these days tend to have a mix but we're unsure about this in relation to program integrity. There's also a suggestion that men's behaviour change groups are psychoeducational rather than therapeutic though again there are different forms of therapy that are also involved as well as motivational interviewing which is now becoming quite commonly associated with many of the men's behaviour change programs.

So this is quite a busy slide but when Donna and Alan were developing these slides they were saying well there's a whole lot of questions that need to be asked when we're trying to think about what's the future of fathering issues or fathering responses within men's behaviour change programs. So who is the client, is always a key question, so is the participant in the men's behaviour change program the focus or is it about the family, and where do children fit and what about the accountability to the courts for those where it's a mandated referral. Lots of issues about what is the difference between anger management and men's behaviour change, is this just about a difference in focus or is it a very different approach. So that a big issue within this area is lots of the programs working with men would say well it's not all about anger because a lot of the violence occurs in very calculated ways, a lot of the control tactics are quite calculated rather than derived from a very emotional response to anger.

And when you've got issues of programs being mandated or voluntary, for the voluntary programs how to challenge, how to challenge men in these areas, how do we hold them accountable, what about the co-occurring issues which are now I think becoming very evident as needing to be addressed within these programs around substance abuse, depression, anxiety, some mental health problems and the issues around child abuse. So that just responding only to men's violence towards women is often to miss some of the other issues that maybe highly relevant or further symptoms of problems that are occurring that need to be addressed. And also there does appear from the early discussions we've had with men from other research that we've been involved with, that there is a sense in which men can be very engaged around the issues around their own children, they're not necessarily - there's a group of men anyway who aren't necessarily as engaged around their non biological children. So we shouldn't just make presumptions that all men are motivated by issues around fathering because that's a very diverse issue as well.

So that leads then to thinking about when we're looking at a future to how one might look at an intervention in the future about how do you control for the very diverse programs and very diverse issues that are being addressed within these programs because we would want to be seeing in the future an intervention trial so that we can develop a stronger evidence base in this area. Also it raises not just issues about men’s behaviour change programs but also issues about fathering. What is responsible fathering in this area, what are the differences between this and authoritative fathering because when there have been issues of violence abuse and fear, authoritative fathering can appear and be experienced as still very fearful forms of disciplining and fathering. Is it different from the issues around generative fathering which is where account is taken of the different needs of children as they develop and that requires different forms of parenting, different forms of fathering. Is it quality of fathering versus quantity of fathering and where should the focus lie.

I guess a particular issue for us in thinking about this research area are the issues around the notion of reparation, that in men's behaviour change programs there's quite a lot of attention to the development of empathy and understanding the impact of violence and abuse and a recognition that there's a need to apologise in some way or to at least indicate to the victim that there's been an understanding of the harm that's been done. One of the issues around standard parenting programs is that there isn't really as far as we understand much attention to reparation but there are those issues that we would think are important in relation to fathering issues for men where there's been violence.

So then also that raises a lot of issues about the sorts of programs and where in men's behaviour change programs within the indigenous healing programs or fathering programs do you deal with the issues of violence and abuse or alternatively the issues around fathering, particularly for parenting groups, should these be men alone, should they be co-occurring groups with women, how does that work when there's been issues around previous or current violence. We do know, so looking across to the other side of the fame here that we don't have a lot of evidence around what's working at the moment. There are some programs developing called Evolve, Caring Dads, Restorative Parenting, that are looking at some of the issues and trying to develop some evidence base through evaluation but we're still at early stages in this area.

We also have a lack of children's perspectives on these programs and evaluation of the impacts on children, so within Australia men's behaviour change programs there's very little content about children at the moment, there's some, often now there will be one session or two sessions within a men's behaviour change program but that's not across the board. Certainly other researchers found that we need to - the fathers were found to grow in their understanding of the impact of their behaviours on children through group processes, so there's been quite a lot of attention to the group process as the process through which change can occur. However again you have to be very aware of the evidence base, they are small samples and a lot of it's based on self-report.

The work with the indigenous healing programs, particularly, some of the initial evaluations that we've looked at in this area appear more holistic and comprehensive than group programs for either family violence in the men's behaviour change area or the fathering area. The indigenous programs focus on traditional ways of being while addressing both violent behaviours and fathering within a framework of connection and healing. Many also work in the shadow of colonisation and its effects on indigenous people. In Australia there are a number of programs for family violence in Aboriginal communities, these are culturally appropriate promoting awareness of and responsibility for a range of violent behaviours, they focus on oppression, rejection, grief and loss and also some of these programs that engage in quite serious ways with the issues around fathering. We've also looked at other programs in New Zealand, Canada as well as the ones in Australia.

A number of the programs do have - particularly the fathering programs, for example the Caring Dads' programs - have comprehensive manuals for practitioners. Some embed fathering content within existing men's behaviour change programs, others suggest inserting some content in about fathering. There are also alternative ones about child centred fathering groups in place of men's behaviour change. Yet others are following in completion of a men's behaviour change program. When we're thinking about fathering groups in relation to violence and abuse and responding to these issues, I guess there are a number of principles that come to light on which they're based. One of them is that fathers care even if they don't show it in appropriate ways. There's also a second principle would be that they need to ensure that programs will be of benefit and not further traumatise children and their mothers. That the focus on fathering should not replace the focus on changing abusive and controlling behaviours towards women. That's a very interesting area in terms of how you think about the work around domestic violence, fathering and children.

And the majority of men do have contact with children and therefore groups should be open to men who are not fathers or who currently don't have contact with children. So again that's an issue that sometimes within any men's behaviour change program particularly you would have a group of men who don't have children or don't have contact with their children. However recognising that in fact most men will in the future have contact with children even if it's not current, suggests there's a need for thinking about this area. There are a number of fathering programs that we could point to that are developing and have their manuals. And then there's issues about evaluation and I guess we're particularly galvanised by these issues around evaluation because we would hope at the end of this program, this initial program of research, to be thinking about an intervention trial and how we might evaluate to get a better evidence base about what works in relation to men's behaviour change.

We also need to think about what are the measures of success and so when we're looking at this area around programming approaches to fathering in the context of domestic violence, we're seeing the development of a range of different ways of thinking about this issue. At the moment you've got men's behaviour change programs that are thinking about children as a motivation for change but where there's very little content on fathering. But then you also have another development which is you have the men's behaviour change program first and then you have the parenting after violence program or the fathering after violence program, so you've got two separate programs.

The other way of doing it and I've seen this happen when I was in the UK recently, where you have about five sessions on a men's behaviour change program and then you do the fathering module for those men who have children and then you go back to the men's behaviour change. I have to say that the men actually really like d and appreciated that particular way of embedding the module in the middle of the program. What we're seeing is that the indigenous programs tend to be more holistic and maybe there's a lot to be learnt from thinking about the way in which they approach the issues around violence and fathering. Within the fathering or parenting programs they can include men who are perpetrators of violence and we're seeing these as quite problematic at the moment and that they're not necessarily addressing the issues for fathers who use violence appropriately.

Our concluding comments would be that there are few examples of family and domestic programs that address men's fathering. Program evaluation is very limited so the evidence base on which you could base new practice is quite limited, that generally children's perspectives are not well represented within those programs, and that we're highlighting the need for program development. The most appropriate holistic approaches tend to be within the indigenous healing programs. We're about to embark on the next stage of research which is a further audit of men's behaviour change programs, fathering programs and indigenous healing programs in Australia and so we're looking for and will be developing details about program content and the way in which those programs are structured. If by any chance you're listening out there and you're involved in programs around men, violence and fathering and you feel that your program would be of interest then do let Alan Campbell know as he is our sort of go to person on this part of the research at the moment.


-- end -


The transcript is provided for information purposes only and is provided on the basis that all persons accessing the transcript undertake responsibility for assessing the relevance and accuracy of its content. Before using the material contained in the transcript, the permission of the relevant presenter should be obtained.

The Commonwealth of Australia, represented by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), is not responsible for, and makes no representations in relation to, the accuracy of this transcript. AIFS does not accept any liability to any person for the content (or the use of such content) included in the transcript. The transcript may include or summarise views, standards or recommendations of third parties. The inclusion of such material is not an endorsement by AIFS of that material; nor does it indicate a commitment by AIFS to any particular course of action.

Need some help?

CFCA offers a free research and information helpdesk for child, family and community welfare practitioners, service providers, researchers and policy makers through the CFCA News.