Issue 46

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Family Matters No. 46, 1997

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Highlights and papers from the Institute's Fifth Australian Family Research Conference

Highlights and papers from the Institute's Fifth Australian Family Research Conference

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Publication details

Family Matters No. 46
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, April 1997, XX pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


News from the Family Court: Altruistic children and special medical procedures

Danny Sandor

The Family Court has been named as the appropriate court to decide whether children should undergo certain medical procedures. Until now, previous cases have concerned a procedure said to be for the child's benefit. In this article the author reports on a recent application where this was not the prime reason for the proposed medical intervention, but rather to benefit someone else.

Replenishing social capital: A corporate response

Ron Burke

Although there may be some scepticism as to the motives of an organisation such as the National Australia Bank Group, a sponsor of the Institute's Fifth Australian Family Research Conference, being involved in discussion of family and community issues, the author argues that the corporate sector should not be excluded from processes designed to address fundamental issues. The responsibilities of the corporate sector extend beyond the creation of wealth. The corporate sector has a pervasive influence on the shape and quality of the economic, physical, political and social environments. The author examines the concept of social capital which is fundamental to the quality of life of all people. It is the ability of people to work together for common purposes in groups and organisations. The author states that it is the view of the National Bank that there is scope to build stocks of financial and social capital simultaneously, and that there is a need for cooperative partnerships between the corporate sector, government and community organisations in order to ensure adequate maintenance of social capital stocks.

Child care in a caring society

Harry McGurk

Child care has been developed primarily as a service to meet the needs of working parents. In this discussion of the role of child care services in supporting families in their rearing of children in contemporary Australia, the author argues that it is necessary to balance this perspective by thinking of child care as an investment in children and for children. The focus of child care should be on the creation of social environments and exchanges that secure the current happiness and well being of all children and nurture their developmental futures. The author examines the historical distinction in child care between an educational service for children in the immediate preschool years and a care service provided for infants and toddlers. He also discusses the nature of parenting and child rearing and policy implications of child care.

Effects of gender and paid work on grandparenting

Christine Millward

Two features of the later life experience of many Australians are becoming a grandparent and retiring from the paid workforce. Preliminary findings from the Institute's Australian Life Course Study shed light on certain aspects of family involvement as people reach middle and older age. Overall, analysis showed that interaction with grandchildren was an important and satisfying part of the later life experience for both men and women. The author discusses aspects of involvement by grandparents and the effects of gender and workforce participation of both the grandparents themselves and their adult children.

Exploring links between schools and families

Wendy Stone

In this article the author summarises early research findings on the impact of family factors on children's academic and social abilities, and in particular children's experience of non promotion or when children repeat a year in the primary or secondary education system. She states that initial research results suggest the need for a more detailed examination of the relationship between family structure, socioeconomic factors and children's gender in future research, and in particular more detailed examination of household income and family structure as they affect children's abilities and schooling.

Adolescent sibling conflict: The role of parental favouritism

Grania Sheehan

The link between adolescents' experiences of parental favouritism and differences in sibling communication patterns during interactions with their sibling is examined. One hundred and seventy five adolescent, twin sibling pairs and their parents were involved in the study. The findings suggest that twins' non shared experiences of differential parenting in the family are linked to both twins' shared experience of destructive patterns of communication during conflict with their twin, and to non shared experiences in their relational communication with their twin. The implications of these findings for parenting and the transmission process of communication patterns and conflict across familial relationships is discussed. (Author abstract, edited)

The post-divorce American family: An intergenerational perspective

Paul Amato

In America, the divorce rate increased dramatically during the late 1960s and 1970s and levelled off in the 1980s, at an historically high level. Currently at least half of all first marriages in the United States, and one third of all first marriages in Australia, are projected to end in divorce. The author examines the long term social and economic outcomes for children of divorced families as they enter into adulthood. He also discusses the intergenerational patterns of divorce and parent child relationships after divorce. He provides a comparison of the psychological well being of young adult children raised in divorced and not divorced families, and outlines some policy implications.

Children's involvement in household work: Views of adolescents in six countries

Jennifer Bowes, Denise Chalmers and Constance Flanagan

In this article the authors analyse attitudes that emerged from a major international survey of adolescents' views about children's involvement in household work. The focus of the paper is on the differences both between and within cultures in adolescents' ideas about when children should begin work in the home, the value of household work for children and whether or not such work should be paid. Comparisons are made between six countries (Australia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden and the USA) and between genders, on two kinds of household tasks - self care and family care. Of particular interest is the picture that emerges of Australian adolescents; it is a picture that in many ways reflects general cultural values and that emerges as different from the views of adolescents in other countries.

Working with Aboriginal families: Issues and guidelines for family and child counsellors

Stephen Ralph

This article is based on the author's experience as a Family Court counsellor with Aboriginal families in Central Australia over a 12 month period. He seeks to share insights and knowledge gained from providing conciliation counselling to Aboriginal families at times of family breakdown and separation. Issues of cross cultural communication, family violence and service provision are discussed, and guidelines offered to facilitate and promote work in this area. Although the focus is on counselling services, the article offers a range of sensitivities of which family researchers need to be aware.

Resolution of disputes in family law: Should courts be confined to litigation?

Margaret Harrison

The Attorney General has recently announced his intention to consider making far reaching changes to the delivery of primary dispute resolution services. The author states that the Attorney General's assumption that counselling within Court premises encourages parents to see litigation as the preferred solution to their difficulties contravenes both statistical evidence and client satisfaction surveys. Furthermore, she believes that his preference for devolution of the counselling and mediation work currently undertaken by Court staff to outside agencies needs to be questioned. In this article the author outlines the services the Family Court is currently providing, and the possible implications of reducing or removing these services.

Research directions of the Family Court of Australia

Judi Robinson

As well as undertaking much of its own research and evaluation, the Family Court of Australia is keen to encourage other interested individuals or organisations to conduct research which will assist in the development of an appropriate body of knowledge about its operations. This article outline three main areas on which the Family Court is concentrating its research: theoretical and empirical studies; research and evaluation to improve the quality of practice; and research and evaluation for internal decision making.

The significance of the conceptualisation of childhood for child protection policy

Jan Mason and Bronwyn Steadman

Children are frequently left out of social policy and its analysis. In the specific area of child protection policy, even though by definition it appears to be child oriented, adultist perspectives dominate. Children are rarely involved in defining areas of concern or in contributing in a meaningful way to decision making on issues concerning their own welfare. The dominance of the adultist perspective in decision making about children has been reinforced by the social sciences. In the theories underpinning developmental psychology and socialisation an ideology can be identified which has influenced a particular understanding of childhood. The assumptions underlying this ideology are analysed in relation to their implications for social attitudes to children. The consequent structural positioning of children as a marginalised and regulated group is discussed. Current challenges to this construction of childhood have developed from an awareness that different meanings have been attributed to childhood over time and space, and that children's agency is a significant factor to take into consideration in policy making. An emerging paradigm for studying and knowing about children is outlined, based on recognition of the importance of policy recipients being primary informants on issues concerning them. The implications of such a paradigm for child protection policy and for more general social policy is examined. (Author abstract)

Consumer participation for young people in care

Andrew O'Brien

This article examines the powerlessness and isolation experienced by many young people in care. While emphasis is often placed on treating the symptoms of such feelings, identification and treatment of the causes is usually dependent on the skills of individuals rather than on a systemic approach that actively encourages consumer participation, a practice designed to increase the accountability of service providers to their consumers. In this paper, consumer participation is defined as the meaningful involvement in the decision making processes of children and young people in care. This article is based on the experiences of the Australian Association of Young People in Care as to how this process may be undertaken.

Young women delaying families

Christine Millward

In this article the author discusses two trends relating to women and labour force participation which have been working in parallel. The first is the trend for more of those women who have children to stay in, or return to, the workforce after the birth of a child or during the early child raising years. The second trend has been occurring with less fanfare, perhaps because it has not attracted the need for specific services, and that is a decline among young women in the workforce who have the care of dependent children.

Gender inequality and divorce laws: A Canadian perspective

Maureen Baker

Australia and Canada (except French Canada) have experienced similar legal backgrounds and similar divorce controversies, but several policy choices have differed. In this article the author highlights a number of legal reforms that have occurred in Canada and in Australia, arguing that the lingering controversies resulting from divorce reform cannot only be resolved through changes to family law. They require wide changes in social and economic policies and public attitudes. Laws relating to divorce and custody in both Canada and Australia have been inconsistent and misleading for the judiciary and the public. Although the law is written as gender neutral and designed to ensure the equal division of matrimonial property, in reality gender remains a key variable in divorce outcomes.