Issue 31

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Family Matters No. 31, 1992

Journal issue feature image

Living day to day

This issue of Family Matters, features the first report based on results of the Institute's Australian Living Standards Study (Living day to day) and includes articles which examine the impact of the recession on families.

Articles in this issue of Family Matters are only available as PDF documents and do not meet the latest web accessibility standards. If you are unable to access any of the articles in this issue of Family Matters please contact us and we will endeavour to provide the article/s you need in a format that you can use.


Meredith Michie

Assistant Editor

Claire Miller

Publications Committee

Helen Brownlee, Don Edgar, Peter McDonald, Meredith Michie, Claire Miller, Gay Ochiltree, Liz Sharman Allyson Trainor and Ilene Wolcott.

Publication details

Family Matters No. 31
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, April 1992, 72 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Changing families in changing societies

Don Edgar

The author presents an overview of the Changing Families in Changing Societies conference, held in Brussels in February 1992. Speakers and delegates came from all corners of the world to share information about the issues they face at home, thus providing a comprehensive overview of the global challenges to be faced in the 1994 International Year of the Family, and an appreciation of the many cultural and traditional mores at work.

Trapped in poverty: The difficulties of sole mothers

Ruth Weston

Using data from the Institute of Family Studies' Parents and Children after Marriage Breakdown study, the author examines the difficulties sole mothers encounter when they attempt to escape poverty by finding paid work.

Living day to day: Families in recession

Peter McDonald and Helen Brownlee

Information for this paper was gathered in a rapidly growing, outer area of Melbourne as part of the Australian Living Standards Study. The paper examines the effects of the recession on 54 families with at least one unemployed member and a low income or families who were experiencing severe economic hardship for some other reason such as a substantiaL decline in the income of self-employed people. Case studies are presented, and the families' experiences with unemployment, the Commonwealth Employment Service, Newstart, and managing family finances are described.

Stepfathers in children's lives

Kate Funder, Simon Kinsella and Peta Courtney

This paper uses data from the Institute of Family Studies' Parents and Children after Marriage Breakdown study to investigate how children adjust to being in a stepfamily, and how they feel about their stepfathers. The study points to the happy incorporation of stepfathers into the families of about two-thirds of the adolescents in the sample. Stepfathers who are perceived to have a low involvement appear to be in the happiest homes. Conditions in the family before the arrival of the stepfather may, however, be quite important to how involved the stepfather becomes with his stepchildren. The findings also point to the need to help those children who are in a 'stand-off' with their stepfather. They are also likely to be unhappy at home, and less likely to have close contact with their own father.

Matrimonial property reform

Margaret Harrison

The tasks of the Joint Parliamentary Inquiry into the Family Law Act include examining 'whether it is desirable to better structure the exercise of the discretion of the courts in making orders determining disputes in relation to ... property'. This article examines the issue of judicial discretion in matrimonial property disputes; presents a brief outline of the property division proposal of the Law Reform Commission, and the position taken by the Australian Institute of Family Studies on the proposal; notes the failure of the Commonwealth government to indicate whether it proposes to endorse some or all of the Law Reform Commission's recommendations; argues that a 50-50 starting point for determining the property share of each spouse would avoid many of the pitfalls of detailing and suggesting the different weights to be given to a possible multitude of contributions to a marriage. The author suggests such a starting point would also provide a strong message to husbands and wives alike that their marriage is a partnership of equals and not an institution composed of superior and inferior members.

Families and young people in Australia: Issues for research

Peter McDonald

The author suggests that research into young people must include research into the situation of their parents. The confusion apparent in many young people today must be reviewed against the socio-demographic and economic circumstances of the parental generation, their own histories, and their attitudes towards young people, particularly their own children. For the parents of today's young people, there was little confusion about their status. Becoming an adult was clearly defined by the markers of marriage, leaving home, starting work, bearing children and buying a house. All these tended to occur at a very young age and at much the same time as each other. For the children of this generation, the transition into adulthood is not nearly so obvious, and this in itself is one of the most serious problems facing young people in Western societies today. The article examines the difficulties facing young people and their families, discusses education and employment, independence and adulthood, and suggests directions for future research.

Family skills training program

Ilene Wolcott

The author provides a brief background to the Federal Government's Family Skills Training Program, and reviews the manual and video which have come out of the program, both called 'Kids need all the help parents can get.'

Family day care: A home away from home?

Gay Ochiltree and Evelyn Greenblat

Family day care schemes in Australia provide supervised care for children in the private homes of licensed caregivers. Mothers' views and their use of family day care were examined as part of the Institute's Early Childhood Study, which looked at the use of non-parental child care in the preschool years. This article examines the role of family day care, how mothers found out about it, their feelings about its advantages or disadvantages, what qualities they looked for in the caregiver, and what they consider to be the ideal form of child care. Case studies are presented to give an idea of the nature of the relationship between the family day care provider, the mother and the child.

Housing costs and unemployed families

Andrew Burbidge and George Gondor

Data drawn from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 1990 Income Survey unit record tape are presented to show the housing circumstances of unemployed people. The group studied in the article are couples who had both had jobs, but one or both had become unemployed.

A man's place...? Reconstructing family realities

Don Edgar and Helen Glezer

The authors discuss the impact of recent social change on men, and question the continued existence of the supposedly 'invisible father'. They argue that Australian research suggests a less bleak, less stereotyped view of where fathers fit into family life. Moreover, it indicates that caution is needed in attributing resistance to change only to fathers. It is suggested that the real problem is that there has been little concomitant change in the structures of work, education, the law and community support services and until there is, the goals of equal opportunity and shared parenting will remain elusive. Furthermore, there has been more real change in family behaviour than there has been in associated institutions. Australian Institute of Family Studies research is drawn upon to examine shifts in attitude, division of household tasks, caring for sick children, work-family stress, and shared familial responsibility after divorce. The conclusion reached is that while there is cause for optimism amid the confusion about, and resistance to, change, society still has a long way to go.

Sharing the caring: Rethinking current policies

Don Edgar

This article reproduces a paper commissioned by the Office of Women's Interests, Perth, Western Australia. It looks at the distorting effects of our current approaches to care of the aged, disabled, and mentally handicapped. It argues that policy preferences for 'community care' really mean 'family care', which usually means care by women, and is an excuse for financial cutbacks. The article documents many of the inefficiencies of today's care system and exposes how out of touch it is with a changing family reality. The author suggests ways to ensure a more caring society in which those cared for are given an active say in policies and programs.

Big business, small business, family business

Ilene Wolcott

Using data from studies of employers' views on work and family issues by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, this article compares how big and small business approach the challenge of becoming more 'family-friendly'. Similarities and differences are noted; the issue of responsibility for the cost and benefits of the 'human capital' investment in workers with family responsibilities is addressed; the economics-equity issue is examined in the context of the current recession.