Family Pathways

Family Pathways were a series of studies of separated families in Australia. The Family Pathways studies aimed to understand how changes to the family law system affect the lives of separated parents and their children. The studies have been conducted since 2008 and involve separated families across a broad range of circumstances.

The information collected during these important studies has enhanced our understanding of the diverse ways in which post-separation circumstances and wellbeing of parents and children unfold and identified factors that help explain such diversity.

Completed studies

Family Pathways: Survey of Recently Separated Parents 2014

This study involved parents who separated between July 2012 and December 2013.The study aimed to identify opportunities for improving support for children and their families after separation.

Key questions included:

  • How do families manage parenting after separation?
  • How are children’s arrangements negotiated?
  • What are the changes and challenges in life following family breakdown?
  • What are the parents’ experiences of the family law system and how effective is it in assisting them to handle the challenges they confront?

Telephone interviews of over 6,000 separated parents were conducted between June and November 2014.

The information collected will inform future policies and services that will benefit families experiencing relationship difficulties. 

Family Pathways: Survey of Recently Separated Parents 2012

This study involved parents who separated between July 2010 and December 2011. As well as identifying opportunities for improving support for children and their families after separation, the study also provided a picture of the experiences of separating parents just prior to the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2011.

Telephone interviews of over 6,000 separated parents were conducted between July and September 2012.

The Survey of Recently Separated Parents Final Report presents findings from the Survey of Recently Separated Parents 2012 and is available on the Attorney General's Department website.

The study was conducted on behalf of the Australian Government’s Attorney-General's Department with additional support from the Australian Department of Human Services Child Support Program. 

Family Pathways: The Longitudinal Study of Separated Families

The Longitudinal Study of Separated Families was a national study of some 10,000 parents who separated between July 2006 and December 2007.

The study involved the collection of data from the same group of parents over a number of years:

  • The first wave took place between August and October 2008 (up to 26 months after the time of parental separation).
  • The second wave of interviews, conducted between September and November 2009, followed up the same group of parents, with more than 7,000 interviews completed.
  • The third wave of interviews aimed to speak with these parents again (those who completed interviews in previous waves and agreed to be re-contacted again). As part of this third wave, a new group of parents were interviewed who were separated in the same period of time (between July 2006 and December 2007).

    Interviews for wave 3 were conducted between August and December 2012.

The key research objectives for Wave 3 were to:

  • examine the circumstances and wellbeing of family members approximately five years after parental separation; and
  • identify the factors and processes that explain the different trajectories that will have become apparent by the third survey.

The Post-separation parenting, property and relationship dynamics after five years presents findings from the three waves of this project and is available on the Attorney General's Department website.

Waves 1 and 2 of the Family Pathways: The Longitudinal Study of Separated Families were conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, co-funded by the Australian Government’s Attorney-General's Department and the then Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

Wave 3 of the study was conducted on behalf of the Australian Government’s Attorney-General's Department with additional support from the Australian Department of Human Services Child Support Program. 

Family Pathways: Looking Back

Family Pathways: Looking Back was the national study of some 2,005 parents (with at least one child under 18 years old) who separated between January 2004 and June 2005 - prior to the introduction of the reforms.

Parents were interviewed for this study between March 2009 and May 2009 – some 3.7 to 5.2 years after separation. The cross-sectional study design provided a snapshot of what life was like for separated parents in the pre-reform policy context, and sought to explore the pathways families had taken since separating.

Family Pathways: The Adolescent Study

The Adolescent Study focused on the experiences and opinions of young people whose parents separated after the introduction of the reforms in July 2006. The study complemented the longitudinal study, by recruiting children of the parents who participated in the first wave of The Longitudinal Study of Separated Families.

Interviews with young people aged 12-18 years were conducted between October and November 2009. Information collected as part of this study sought to capture young people’s views about the changes in their families.

Family Pathways: The Grandparents Study

This study focused on grandparents with at least one grandchild aged 2–10 years old whose parents had separated between January 2004 and December 2008. The key purpose of this study was to examine the impact of parental separation on the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren. The study encompassed two components: focus groups and an online survey.

Focus groups were held in July 2009 and were designed to tap into the key experiences of grandparents before and after the separation of their adult child and the perceived impacts of the family law reforms. The online survey was conducted in June-July 2009 to examine grandparents' views on the impact of parental separation on the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.

 

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