Issue 53

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Family Matters No. 53, 1999

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Strong families: National Families Strategy

The major theme of this edition of Family Matters is strengthening and supporting families. As researchers and policy makers, we have access to a lot of information about families in crisis and the various policy interventions and programs that can be implemented to address family problems.

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.

Publication details

Family Matters No. 53
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, June 1999, XX pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information

Abstracts

Strengthening and supporting Australian families: The government's direction for a new National Families Strategy


In the 1999 - 2000 budget, it was announced that the Commonwealth government would work with the States and Territories, community organisations and businesses, to develop a national framework to strengthen and support families. This article provides information on the focus and emphasis of the strategy, and on the launch of the Government's response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs' report, 'To have and to hold: strategies to strengthen marriage and relationships'.

 

 

The Australian Institute of Family Studies and the New National Families Strategy

Peter Saunders

The new National Families Strategy undertaken by the Commonwealth Government recognises that strong families are the cornerstone of a strong and vibrant civil society. The main emphasis of the new strategy is on preventing family breakdown by developing effective early interventions, including relationship education and parenting training, as well as programs aimed at preventing child abuse, domestic violence, youth homelessness and crime. In this article, the author outlines the similarities of the Strategy with the philosophy underpinning the work of the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the core areas of the research plan of the Institute: children and parenting; family and marriage; and family and society. These link directly to some of the major objectives of the National Families Strategy.

What is a fair divorce settlement?

Peter Saunders

The Attorney-General's department is currently considering proposed changes to the rules governing property settlement in divorce. This is a highly contentious area of the Family Law Act, and in this essay the author sets out to show why. There are, he says, different and competing criteria of 'fairness' in Australian culture, and some of the ideas now under consideration support only one notion of fairness while neglecting others that are equally valid. This article is a personal contribution to the debate over divorce law reform, and does not represent the 'official' position of the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

 

 

Strong families around the world

John DeFrain

Those who study families do so for many different reasons, but perhaps the most important reason is to learn how people can get along better with one another in an intimate environment. If researchers study only family problems, they are likely to find only family problems. Similarly, if educators, community organisers, therapists and researchers are interested in family strengths, they look for them. When these strengths are identified, they can become the foundation for continued growth and positive change in a family and a society. The author briefly describes research projects on strong families at the University of Newcastle, Family Action Centre and Department of Social Work and then describes two models of strong families: the Family Circumplex Model developed by David Olson and colleagues and the The Family Strengths Model from the work of Nick Stinnett and the author. He notes that qualities identified in the two models which define strong families are very similar and this consistency extends to remarkable similarities among families across cultures in studies of strong families in North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and now Australia.

Family forms - family wellbeing

Ruth Weston and Jody Hughes

The family plays a pivotal role in shaping the health and well being of the next generation of citizens. It can be a source of great happiness or of misery. The different pathways parents take after divorce have resulted in diverse family forms, each with special needs that may call for different strategies to strengthen family life and prevent further breakdown. This article first outlines some of the literature concerning the impact of divorce on children, then uses data from the Institute's Australian Living Standards Study to compare the well being of adolescent children and their parents in five family forms: intact families, stepfather families, stepmother families, sole mother families and sole father families.

 

 

Strong families and satisfying marriages

Ilene Wolcott

Strong and stable families are acknowledged to provide the optimum framework for children's well being and the foundation for becoming responsible adults. Evidence continues to accumulate that marriage contributes to men's and women's improved physical and psychological health, longevity and material wealth and better outcomes for children's well being. As a background to a major new study of Positive Marriage and Family Relationships, conducted by the Institute, this article presents a review of the literature describing positive marital and family characteristics and functioning, and the strategies espoused for strengthening marriage and family life. These themes are discussed in relation to trends in contemporary society that appear to influence the stability and quality of family life.

Shaping families: Women, control and contraception

Lois Bryson, Stegani Strazzari and Wendy Brown

The capacity to control family size and the spacing of children is essential for women if they are to achieve their family and employment aspirations. However, maintaining the necessary control is a complex matter, raising many issues for family policy. The Women's Health Australia project (also known as the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health) provides an opportunity to explore these issues for three generations of women. In this article the authors aim to contribute to the process of gaining a better understanding of the nature of families by focusing on the aspirations about family size and future employment plans of the young women in the study. This is then linked to patterns of contraception use among the young women in contrast to the picture for the older women in the study. Patterns of contraception use are examined in light of different backgrounds of young women and the nature of their relationship with their sexual partners. The empirical data also provide a basis for a discussion of the problems young women face as they exercise control of their fertility. Finally, some implications for the families of the future and for gender relations more generally are explored.

Repartnering following relationship breakdown

Robyn Parker

At some point following the breakdown of a marriage or long term de facto relationship, the issue of whether or not to embark on another partnership is bound to arise. What factors are likely to influence men and women in their decision to remain single or to re partner? The first part of this article discusses some of the research literature that has identified the characteristics of those who re partner, and the perceived benefits of repartnering. Drawing on data from the Institute's Australian Family Life Course Study, the second part examines the socio demographic characteristics of men and women who have indicated a clear desire either to seek out a new partner or to remain unattached.

Binding pre-marital agreements: Will they help?

Belinda Fehlberg and Bruce Smyth

In Australia, unlike most other countries, premarital agreements, or financial agreements entered into before marriage, are not legally effective on divorce. Couples cannot enter binding agreements about their financial affairs until after their marriage has broken down. The Federal Government proposes to change this situation. In this article the authors question whether binding agreements will help divorcing couples. Recent data from the Institute's Australian Divorce Transitions Project sheds some light on this important question. After briefly outlining the current legal position and policy issues, the findings from these data are presented, and then considered in the context of current proposals for reform.

Budget standards and the costs of children

Peter Saunders

For many years, the Australian Institute of Family Studies journal, 'Family Matters' has regularly published two estimates of the costs incurred by Australian parents in raising children. One estimate is based on a Basket of Goods Approach, originally developed by Kerry Lovering in 1984, and the other is grounded in a Survey Expenditure Approach, initially developed by Donald Lee in 1989. There has been a growing recognition that both measures need to be replaced by fresh calculations based new research. As a result the Institute will discontinue publication of the updates of these figures, and in this issue of the journal publishes two articles which explore how the complex issue of estimating the cost of children can best be approached. In this article the author examines the approaches used by Lee and Lovering, and explains current research being undertaken through using indicative budget standards for a range of households that would examine the costs of children in different family circumstances. The other article, by Rebecca Valenzuela, examining costs of children also appears in this issue of 'Family Matters'.

Costs of children in Australian households: New estimates from the ABS Household Expenditure Survey

Rebecca Valenzuela

For many years, the Australian Institute of Family Studies journal, 'Family Matters' has regularly published two estimates of the costs incurred by Australian parents in raising children. One estimate is based on a Basket of Goods Approach, originally developed by Kerry Lovering in 1984, and the other is grounded in a Survey Expenditure Approach, initially developed by Donald Lee in 1989. There has been a growing recognition that both measures need to be replaced by fresh calculations based on new research. As a result the Institute will discontinue publication of the updates of these figures, and in this issue of the journal publishes two articles which explore how the complex issue of estimating the cost of children can best be approached. This article calculates estimates of the money costs of children based on actual expenditures incurred by families in the years 1984, 1988-89 and 1993-94. The costs of children are estimated by comparing the expenditure of families with children to those without children to determine the child's share of family expenditure. These money cost estimates, also known as equivalence scales, are used to show how much income families with different numbers and ages of children would need to achieve comparable standards of living. The other article, by Peter Saunders, examining costs of children also appears in this issue of 'Family Matters'.

Older workers, families and public policies

Ilene Wolcott

The employment decisions and family situation of older workers are increasingly important as public policy discussions address issues of balance between individual, family and government provision of caring for the elderly and income support in later life. This article explores the relationship between the responses of later life respondents in the Institute's Australian Family Life Course Study, and examines how workers aged 50 - 70 years perceive aspects of their working arrangements and conditions, retirement intentions and family life. This information has relevance for policies affecting work and family in later life.

Strengthening family and marriage stability

Shirley Sampson

At a seminar held at the Australian Institute of Family Studies in March 1999 which focused on a variety of issues at the interface of the family and education, the author addressed the need for education for family life. She also took the opportunity to respond to the Institute's Research Plan 1999 - 2001 which sets out the research directions being adopted by the Institute for the next three years. This article is an edited version of her comments in which she suggests two possible directions for consideration: preparing for parenthood; and enhancing communication and relationship skills.

Comment: Welcome changes in family studies

Moira Eastman

At a seminar held at the Australian Institute of Family Studies in March 1999 which focused on a variety of issues at the interface of the family and education, the author addressed the significant contribution made by families to children's learning achievements in schools. She also took the opportunity to respond to the Institute's Research Plan 1999 - 2001 which sets out the research directions being adopted by the Institute for the next three years. This article is an edited version of her comments, and looks at the Institute's research plan in terms of the family's child rearing role, the focus on family and marriage, families and the economic, political and community systems, and welcome changes in family studies.

 

 

Family law update: New Legislative Initiatives

Margaret Harrison

The Family Law Act has been in operation for 23 years. While some parts of it have been substantially revised, others have remained relatively unchanged. A number of proposals, Bills and discussion papers have flagged yet more reforms, specifically in the areas of property and financial agreements. This article updates developments and provides some commentary with regard to federal magistracy, parenting orders, financial agreements and cross vesting.