Issue 48

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Family Matters No. 48, 1997

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Family values: Is there agreement?

Family relations and later life; the role of fathers as confidants for teenagers; understanding parenthood

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Publication details

Family Matters No. 48
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, September 1997, XX pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


The Influence of Family Relationships on Later Life

Ilene Wolcott

As the population ages, increasing attention is being focused on the family circumstances and relationships of people in later life. This article reports on the meaning and role of family relationships in the lives of men and women aged between 50 and 70 years. It is based on data from the Later Life Families Study conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies between August-December 1996. The author found that for the majority of men and women in this age group, family across the generations was important and contact with family was frequent. Although only one third of men and women said specifically that their own parents or their children would influence later life decisions and activities, the majority of all respondents reported participating in a substantial amount of reciprocal support and valued family contact.

Divorce and Family Relations in Later Life

Christine Millward

Parental divorce or separation can modify family networks, thus affecting the levels of intergenerational support available to people as they grow older. Overseas research has found that being divorced or separated decreases levels of contact and exchange between older parents and adult children, and leads to poorer parent - child relationships. In this article the author examines the effect of parental divorce and separation on the nature of intergenerational relations between older Australian parents and their adult children. At issue is whether or not public policies based upon assumptions of private support from adult children to older parents are ill founded where the parents have experienced divorce.

Family Values in the Nineties: Gender gap or generation gap?

David de Vaus

This article examines value differences between groups. The focus is on differences in a set of traditional family values - attitudes to working mothers, careers for women, gender roles, marriage, cohabitation, ex nuptial births, single parents, childlessness, divorce, sex outside of marriage and homosexuality. The findings in this article come from the 1989 - 90 and the 1993 National Social Science Survey and the 1995 Australian Family Values Survey. Together these three surveys provide a current picture of views held by adult Australians on a wide range of family values. The majority of people held many traditional family values. A large majority of respondents stressed that caring for young children should take priority over work for mothers, and the majority supported the traditional breadwinner role for men and family role for women.

Exploring Parenthood and Parenting: An introduction to 'Parenting-21'

Harry McGurk and Violet Kolar

A major new study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Parenting-21, investigates how ordinary parents in ordinary Australian families are going about the task of bringing up children who are going to live the major part of their lives in the 21st century. This article sets the context of Parenting-21. The development of the project was influenced by consideration of outcomes from previous investigations of parents' ideas on parenting and child rearing. It involves studying the relationships between parental beliefs, ideas and understanding about the nature of children and childhood, and their child rearing practices, and focuses on the rearing of children from infancy to middle childhood. The study is part of an international network of projects known as the International Parents, Schools and Child Research Consortium.

Turning to Father: The role of fathers relative to mothers and friends as confidants for adolescents

Ruth Weston

There is a growing public awareness that fathers, like mothers, provide advice, friendship and emotional support for their children. In this article the author discusses the extent to which teenagers confide in their fathers, mothers and friends, and whether confiding in fathers is independently linked with the well being of teenagers. The analysis is based on the 1991-92 Australian Institute of Family Studies Australian Living Standards Study, and focuses on the responses of 2016 young people who lived with both natural parents. Findings show that the approachability of both fathers and mothers may contribute to the well being of adolescents, while at the same time high well being in young people may predispose them to approach their parents for advice or emotional support. The link between the tendency to confide in fathers and adolescents' well being is consistent with arguments advanced by proponents of the men's movement that fathers can play an important role in their children's lives, not only as providers of financial and material support but also as confidants, nurturers and role models, and as providers of emotional and practical support for mothers.

Women's Perceptions of Fairness and the Persistence of an Unequal Division of Housework

Ken Dempsey

In the continuing endeavour to find convincing explanations for the persistence of an unequal division of domestic work, researchers have been addressing the following question: Do women who are doing most of the work believe they are being treated unjustly? The author determined that the majority of employed wives who are carrying by far the greater load of unpaid work declare that they were being treated fairly by their partners. The predictions of feminists that their consciousness raising activities, coupled with the entry of most wives into the paid workforce, would result in wives recognising that they were being exploited by their husbands have not been fulfilled. The author stresses that employed women often pay a high price physically and psychologically for the persistence of an inequitable division of housework. They have higher rates of depressive illness than employed husbands and many employed women are perpetually tired, often with feelings of ambivalence and resentment.

Changes in child support

Kate Funder

This article looks at changes to the Child Support Scheme. Aspects of the child support debate have centred on what was considered to be the unfair demands for financial support from non resident parents. There are four main changes to the scheme which are as follows: all non resident parents have to contribute a minimum weekly rate; some loopholes created by manipulating taxable income in order to minimise support payments have been closed; the liability of non resident parents for the financial support of children has been reduced in cases where there are second family responsibilities and where the resident parent earns more than $29,598; and parents are encouraged, and even required, to move off the scheme where collection appears reliable.  

Latest trends - Children, Divorce and One-parent Families

Christine Kilmartin

This article outlines the latest trends relating to children, divorce and single parent families. The 1996 divorce figures showed the highest level in the age specific divorce rate for more than a decade, with one of the consequences being an increase in the existence of one parent families. Although the major growth of children living in one parent families is likely to derive from the growth in divorce, other factors such as the breakdown of de facto relationships are also contributing to this trend.

Latest trends - Teenage Ex-nuptial Births

Christine Kilmartin

There have been some concerns that Australian teenage exnuptial births are rising and this article looks at the latest trends in this area. Although the rate has been increasing, it has not been growing as fast as the rate of increase of exnuptial births to older women. Therefore, explains the author, relative to the changing nature of births in Australian society, the teenage exnuptial birth rate has been making a decreasing contribution.  

Australian Family Research and Policy News

Ian Winter

This column is designed to keep readers informed of contemporary developments that matter to families. It is compiled from reports provided by a panel of the following corresponding consultants with expertise in the many dimensions of family research and policy making: Pat Noller; Cynthia a'Beckett; Sotirios Sarantakos; Steven Zubrick; Judy Cashmore; Hal Kendig; Alison Garton; Jon Altman; and Lee Wightman. The column provides a snapshot of family research and policy issues from a range of research perspectives and geographic locations around Australia.