Issue 62

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Family Matters No. 62, 2002

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Understanding family change

This issue of Family Matters contains a diverse array of articles about the family in Australia.

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Publications committee: David de Vaus, Jan Duffie, Matthew Gray, Meredith Michie, Catherine Rosenbrock, Ann Sanson, Ruth Weston

Editor: Meredith Michie

Cover art: Ian Armstrong, Actor’s Family, 1990. Oil on canvas 136.0 x 106.0 cm.

Publication details

Family Matters No. 62
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, June 2002, 64 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Families of the new millennium: Designer babies, cyber sex and virtual communities

Michael Gilding

This article is about the relationship between technological change (the 'Third Industrial Revolution') and the transformation of the family. In particular it considers three new expressions that highlight the connection between new technologies and family 'designer babies', 'cyber sex' and 'virtual communities'. It explores what these expressions tell us about changing family forms, and how families might change in the future.

The origin of lone-parent concentrations in metropolitan and regional Australia

Bob Birrell, Virginia Rapson and Clare Hourigan

Research shows that there are higher concentrations of lone-parent families in Australia's regional centres than in its major cities. But is this a result of a decline in 'traditional' family values? Or a product of migration into these centres? Or is it a consequence of the higher incidence of socioeconomic disadvantage in these centres relative to metropolitan areas? This article examines patterns of geographic mobility in order to assess whether migration is likely to be the major cause for high lone-parent concentrations in regional areas, or whether such concentrations are largely a consequence of 'home grown' factors.

Family and social factors underlying the labour force status of Indigenous Australians

Boyd Hunter and Matthew Gray

This paper seeks to identify the extent to which family and social factors either enhance or detract from Indigenous economic participation. Defining 'discouraged workers' as those who want to work but are not actively looking for work, the authors note that Indigenous people are far more likely than other Australians to be discouraged workers. The article reports on the results of analysis of data from the 1994 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey (NATSIS) which provides a unique opportunity to examine the processes underlying Indigenous labour force status. The research extends the range of factors examined in studies of Indigenous labour supply to include cultural and social environmental factors, and focuses on what leads to Indigenous people becoming discouraged workers. The importance of family, cultural and social environmental factors in determining the labour force outcomes of Indigenous people is highlighted, and implications discussed.

Family law : Meeting the needs of self-represented litigants in family law matters

Catherine Caruana

The recent surge in the number of litigants appearing before the Family Court without legal representation poses a challenge to the notions of justice and due process that underpin Australia's adversarial system. This article discusses the growth of self-representation, its impact on the parties themselves and on the family law system, and current and proposed initiatives to assist unrepresented parties navigate the litigation pathway. The article draws in particular on the most recent report commissioned and published by the Family Court, entitled 'Litigants in Person in the Family Court of Australia' (Dewar, Smith and Banks 2000).

Marriage and mental health

David de Vaus

Does marriage improve the mental health of men at the expense of women? The author investigates whether this widespread belief is supported by data from the 1997 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing of Adults. This Australian Bureau of Statistics survey included questions about people's marital status, their family structure and related matters. The results are unequivocal about the general situation in contemporary Australian families, it is concluded. When a range of types of mental disorders are considered, marriage reduces the risk of mental disorders for both men and women. Although married men and women risk different types of disorders, this has nothing to do with them being married.

Research into parent-child contact after parental separation

Bruce Smyth

Good policy requires good data. The Institute is currently developing a study to explore qualitative and quantitative differences in the ways that separated parents might share time with their children. In this article, the author sets out some of the emerging methodological issues that confront this endeavour.