Issue 57

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Family Matters No. 57, 2000

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Adolescents and community

Adolescents and community; Child support and parenting; Social capital and social security

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Publication details

Family Matters No. 57
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, September 2000, XX pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Development of civic mindedness in Australian adolescents: Australian Temperament Project

Diana Smart, Ann Sanson, Lisa da Silva and John Toumbourou

The ability to consider and care for others as well as for oneself may be considered the culmination of an individual's development. It is manifested in the way parents care for their children, in the way teachers foster their students' intellectual and emotional development, and in the way we as a society support members of our communities and govern our countries. This article is a report of a study of one aspect of this selfless regard for the wellbeing of others, which is termed 'civic mindedness'. Civic mindedness involves a sense of responsibility towards one's community (whether local, national or global), and a belief that despite individual differences, everyone has something to contribute to the common good. Data reported come from a longitudinal community study of Australian children's development known as the Australian Temperament Project. As part of the 1998 survey, collected when the adolescents were 15-16 years old, adolescents were asked to respond to questions concerning various aspects of civic mindedness.

Social capital and social security: Lessons from research

Wendy Stone

In response to the central position social capital has come to occupy in discourse about the social and economic well-being of individuals, families and their communities, this paper first examines how the concept of 'social capital' features in current public policy and welfare reform, and, second, draws upon available Australian and overseas research to provide analysis of how well the concept might meet policy expectations of it. In doing so the paper highlights some lessons about the social capital/ social security nexus which have implications for the ongoing role of government in the provision and regulation of Australian social security. 

Children? No children? Effects of changing personal relationships on decisions about having children

Lixia Qu, Ruth Weston and Christine Kilmartin

The current decline in family size in Australia has sparked considerable debate. Having children is usually seen as a matter of choice, but external circumstances may place constraints on this choice. What is the impact of relationship status on men's and women's intentions about whether or not to have children? And how do changes in relationship status affect those intentions? Based on data from the Australian Family Formation Project, the analysis in this paper focuses on intentions and outcomes regarding having children, covering nearly a decade. Three issues are examined: the prevalence of intentions to have children or remain childless among men and women when they were first contacted (1981); whether those who did not intend to have children were less likely to change their minds than those who intended to have children; and the extent to which relationship status and changes in relationship status over the next ten years influenced intentions and outcomes. 

Child support and parent-child contact

Belinda Fehlberg and Bruce Smyth

Recent proposals to change the Child Support Scheme focused on two important issues: the financial costs of parent-child contact for non-resident parents, and the relationship between contact and the payment of child support. This article draws on a literature review undertaken as part of the Institute of Family Studies Australian Divorce Transitions Project, in order to bring to the fore research that is relevant to questions surrounding the costs of contact for non-resident parents, and the contact- child support nexus. 

Low income parents paying income support: Evaluation of the introduction of a $260 minimum child support assessment

Tammy Wolffs and Leife Shallcross

The Child Support Scheme was introduced in 1989 to ensure parents who no longer live with their children continue to provide them with financial support. The Child Support Agency was set up at the same time to administer these arrangements. The amount to be paid is based on a formula and, until recently, non-resident parents on low incomes, including recipients of income support, were exempt from paying any child support. In July 1999, a minimum child support payment of $5 per week ($260 per year) was introduced to ensure that even these low income parents meet the principle of providing support to their children. This paper provides preliminary results of research evaluating the impacts of the introduction of a minimum child support assessment on resident parents (payees receiving child support) and non-resident parents (payers of child support). Major findings of the evaluation include the extensive support for the measure, including by those assessed to make the payment, the vastly different perceptions by child support payers and payees on a range of parenting issues, and the extent of disadvantage faced by some people in the payment and collection of the minimum assessment.

Single mum or single dad?: Effects of parent residency arrangements on primary school-aged children

Lisbeth Pike

Prevailing wisdom has it that following marital separation or divorce boys will be disadvantaged and girls advantaged when the resident parent is the mother, and that girls will be disadvantaged and boys advantaged when the resident parent is the father - a concept described as the 'same sex tradition'. This paper examines the effects of different parent residency arrangements on the growth of competence and self esteem in children of both genders resident with parents of both genders, and compares these children with children from two-parent households. (Journal abstract) 

Parental involvement of unwed non-resident fathers

Maggie Walter

Modern western fatherhood is a paradox of competing images. While the importance of fathers to children and the unique value of father's role is increasingly recognised, the number of fathers who no longer live with their children is also escalating. The research reported in this paper tests the hypothesis that increased exnuptial births result in increased numbers of children being raised without significant paternal involvement. The analysis uses a combination of data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (1997) Family Characteristics Survey and the 1990 Australian Institute of Family Studies Child Support Evaluation.  

Multiple risk exposure and likelihood of welfare receipt: Implications for social policy and human capital

Robyn Seth-Purdie

New data from a longitudinal study (the Christchurch Health and Development Study, which commenced in 1977 with a sample size of 1000) show that the risk of welfare receipt in early adulthood rises sharply as the extent of exposure to childhood 'adversity' increases. This paper argues that long-term social welfare receipt amongst people of working age should be addressed through cross-sectoral cooperation in strategies which promote human capital formation. Such a strategy would increase the capacity of individuals to assume greater responsibility for the wellbeing of themselves and their families and would produce a wide range of social and economic benefits. 

Valuing young lives: National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy and its evaluation

Penny Mitchell

The Australian Institute of Family Studies has recently completed an evaluation of the National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy. This article provides an overview of the Strategy and a brief summary of findings from the evaluation. The article is accompanied by an inset covering the statistics on youth suicide.  

Stronger Families and Communities Strategy

Lee Emerson

The Federal Government’s Stronger Families and Communities Strategy was launched in April 2000. With its emphasis on prevention and early intervention strategies in family policy, the Strategy is a major shift from more traditional social policy. The author, from the Department of Family and Community Services, describes the context and underlying philosophy of the Strategy, and how these are translated into a new approach to funding community projects and building the evidence base in Australia

Family law update: New legislative developments

Belinda Fehlberg

The author provides a brief overview of the Family Law Amendment Bill 2000, which has now been passed by both houses of parliament and became operative in December 2000. The legislation addresses two important issues: financial agreements, and enforcement of parenting orders. Changes that were made just before the Bill was passed are described and discussed. The author also notes that the Child Support Amendment Bill (No 2) 2000 was defeated, but suggests that discussions are likely to continue on the costs of contact, and the nexus between contact and child support, two of the proposals embodied in the Bill.  

Marriage celebrant reform

Daryl Williams

The Commonwealth Government is proposing reform of the Marriage Celebrant Program to ensure that the role of celebrants reflects modern marriage trends and, ultimately, the fortunes of the Australian social fabric. The author briefly describes a review of the Program, the role of marriage celebrants in strengthening families, and the reform proposals that are under consideration.