Issue 36

You are in an archived section of the AIFS website. Archived publications may be of interest for historical reasons. Because of their age, they may not reflect current research data or AIFS' current research methodologies.

Family Matters No. 36, 1993

Journal issue feature image

Parenting in the 90s

This issue of Family Matters features articles on the theme of parents and parenting.

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

Editorial Assistant

Sandra Marsden

Publications Committee

Helen Brownlee, Don Edgar, Robyn Hartley, Peter McDonald, Meredith Michie, Liz Sharman and Ilene Wolcott.

Publication details

Family Matters No. 36
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, December 1993, 68 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


High-rise parenting: raising children in Melbourne's high-rise estates

Peter McDonald and Helen Brownlee

This article on the circumstances of families with children living on high-rise housing estates in Melbourne today, begins by examining the background to the decision of the Housing Commission of Victoria to build high-rise blocks in inner Melbourne between 1962 and 1974. The authors critically discuss a number of reports on the benefits and disadvantages to families of high-rise living. Using data relating to 101 estate families with children (interviewed as part of the Australian Institute of Family Studies Australian Living Standards Study), the authors identify issues in which families living on high rise estates are significantly different from other families. Issues discussed include: the socioeconomic characteristics of the sample, their reasons for living in the high-rise, over-crowding, the condition of housing, satisfaction with aspects of housing, assessments of the neighbourhood, advantages and disadvantages of living in the area, neighbourliness, the cultural mix, local facilities and general levels of satisfaction. The authors present a number of case studies which present the experience of high-rise living for different types of families.

Parental involvement in reading with children and television viewing in the first five years

Evelyn Greenblat and Helen Glezer

The Early Childhood Study, conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies in the late 1980s, provides a rich data source on parental involvement in both reading and television viewing among children under five. This study gathered information on how often parents read to children and at what age they started reading to children. It looked at the amount of television children watch in their first few years, what parents believed children were gaining from television, and whether television viewing was supervised or unsupervised. This article reports on the findings of the study.

The development of competence

Don Edgar

This article on child development examines the nature of true intelligence, the elements of the growth of competence and how we might better stimulate the development of a child's many intelligences. The author points out some of the blinkers that have restricted our view of children and their potential. Issues addressed include: how intelligence develops, the emerging sense of control, the importance of early childhood, cooperative learning, the importance of play as work, the changing social context of childhood and the community as parent.

Parenting resources in one and two parent families

Christine Millward and Kate Funder

Sole parents have an extra workload due to being the only parent in the household to care for the children. They also have restricted opportunities to increase their household income: not only can they have difficulties managing full-time work (especially with very young children) but also they are one-income units in a society of increasingly two-income households. Sole parents are also more likely than couple families to live in rental and public housing. Does type of housing and lack of money to buy children's requirements lead to difficulties with parenting for sole parents? Using data from a study of living standards in Australia conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the situation of couple versus sole parents in the four Victorian localities of Berwick, Box Hill, Melbourne and Werribee are examined. Comparisons are made between the situation of sole parent families and couple families with regard to child care, support from the other parent, housing, children's happiness and progress, and life satisfaction.

Well being of young people in different family circumstances

Ruth Weston

This article examines the financial, physical and emotional wellbeing of adolescents from sole mother and couple families, some of whose parents are in paid work and some not. Analysis is based on a sample of 1046 adolescents from a study of Australian living standards conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Questions addressed include: are adolescents living in sole-mother families faring better or worse than those living with two parents? What is the relationship between the employment status of parents and the wellbeing of these young people? Are they happier if their mothers stay at home? How troubled are they if their parents are unemployed?

Australian families: an Indonesian perspective

Iwu Utomo

The author, an Indonesian psychologist now studying in Canberra, presents her views on Australian families. She asserts that contrary to Indonesian beliefs about western families, Australians put a high value on children. Furthermore, the family, the community and the government are very supportive of child development and make children's matters a special issue.

Contact with non-custodial fathers and children's well being

If fathers are important figures in children's lives, then we would expect, to find that children's wellbeing in mother-only families is related to the level of paternal involvement following divorce. A number of Australian and American studies are examined to see if they support this idea. These studies show divergent results. Some studies find that children's wellbeing is higher when frequent contact is maintained with non-custodial parents. Other studies do not. This may be because continued contact with non-resident fathers may be beneficial for children in certain ways, however it may also exacerbate conflict between parents, which is bad for children. To explore this idea further, the author examined data from the American 1987-88 National Survey of Families and Households. He found that the consequences of contact between non-custodial fathers and children depends on the quality of the post-divorce relationship between parents. Given these findings, the author argues that it would be useful to promote policies that allow children to maintain contact with both parents following divorce, but only in the context of a cooperative relationship between ex-spouses. The value of joint custody in enhancing cooperation is discussed.

Young adults living at home

Robyn Hartley

A recent Australian Institute of Family Studies study looked at the reasons why some young people had not left home by their early twenties and why some had left and returned, sometimes more than once. The author reviews what the effects are of family resources on decisions to stay with parents, and what such trends mean for parenting.

Adolescent cigarette smokers and their families

Ruth Weston

This article looks at characteristics distinguishing adolescent smokers and non-smokers. Findings are based on data for Box Hill and Berwick families derived from the Australian Living Standards Study. Although both municipalities contained a mix of social classes, Box Hill families generally had a higher socio-economic status than families in Berwick. The author found that boys from blue-collar backgrounds, older boys and those who argued relatively frequently with their parents were particularly likely to smoke. Girls who smoked tended to be older than girls who did not smoke, to live in Box Hill rather than Berwick, and to have low self-esteem.

A lost generation?

Robyn Hartley

The author looks at a new report published by the Australian Youth Foundation titled 'A Lost Generation?'. It is based on discussions with disadvantaged young people aged between 13 and 28 years. The report found that young people's hopes focused on securing good jobs, education and training, and a satisfactory way of life and family.

Physical punishment of children in the home

Gabrielle Maxwell

Although smacking, caning and strapping have been used to bring up generations of New Zealanders there is surprisingly little information on the actual use of physical punishment by New Zealand parents. Perhaps this is because, as suggested by an earlier study by the Jane and James Ritchie (1980), most parents believe that physical punishment is not only right but desirable in the rearing of children: to spare the rod is to spoil the child. This article reviews studies of child rearing practice in New Zealand families in order to find out about the extent of physical punishment and the views of parents and children on its use

Market principles and welfare

Toby O'Connor and Marise Sacco

This article provides an overview of some of the issues surrounding the application of privatisation and market principles to the not-for-profit welfare sector. The paper outlines reasons behind the push for privatisation and raises a number of issues to be addressed in the development of any new relationship between governments and the not-for-profit welfare sector. The paper indicates that there is a need for a greater depth of partnership between governments and the non-government sector in order that human values are the basis of decisions that ensure that scarce resources are used properly in hard economic times. Ultimately, the authors suggest, the questions to be addressed by governments and the non-government welfare sector are: (1) how far should Australia go down the road of privatised welfare; and (ii) what are the principles that should govern the privatisation of welfare services?. Critical comments on the authors' arguments are made by Don Edgar, Mark Lyons, Geoffrey Robinson and Sue Green.

Director's report: Parents at the core of family life

Don Edgar

This article begins by discussing definitions of family and looks critically at the term 'family of choice' which does not limit our understanding of family to blood or kin relationships. The author points out that this understanding of family may be adequate to describe modern adult relationships, but not the family relationships of children. The families of children are predetermined, not chosen. The author then looks at how parenthood has changed and argues that the meaning of parenthood had been transformed with the reconstruction of marital relationships. The article ends with a discussion of a number of child and parent focussed themes.