Issue 68

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Family Matters No. 68, 2004

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Being young

Adolescent development, aspirations and becoming adult, and shaping new life patterns

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Editorial panel: Meredith Michie, Alison Morehead, Catherine Rosenbrock, Ann Sanson, Ruth Weston, Sarah Wise

Editor: Meredith Michie

Cover art: Yuri Podlyaski – 1923 -1989, Tanya 1961. Oil on card, 33 x 48cm. Private collection, Kyneton. Courtesy Bridget McDonnell Gallery, Melbourne.

Publication details

Family Matters No. 68
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, September 2004, 88 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Becoming adult in the 2000s: New transitions and new careers

Johanna Wyn

Young people who are becoming adult in the 2000s are shaping new life patterns as they engage with contemporary social and economic conditions. Yet many of the frameworks that inform current thinking about the process of growing up derive from an era in which different conditions and options prevailed. The transition processes for the majority of young people born after 1970 are different from those of the majority of their parents' generation. This article focuses on contemporary patterns of transition and reflects on how we understand these patterns. It suggests that it is time for a new approach to understanding the process of becoming adult. The article draws on the Life-Patterns Research Project, a longitudinal panel study conducted by the Australian Youth Centre at the University of Melbourne.

Australian Temperament Project (ATP): Where to now for the ATP Study?

Diana Smart

An update is provided about the Australian Temperament Project (ATP), which commenced in 1983 with a cohort of children aged four-eight months, and has collected thirteen waves of data by mail surveys over the first 20 years of life. Future directions are discussed, and a sub-study planned to commence later in 2004 described, the Generation 2 Study, which will focus on ATP participants who are now having children of their own.


At risk but not antisocial: Changes from childhood to adolescence

Suzanne Vassallo, Diana Smart, Ann Sanson and Inez Dussuyer

While much is known about the risk factors associated with adolescent antisocial behaviour, less is known about the factors that might promote resilience against this outcome. This article explores this issue, drawing on data from the Australian Temperament Project analysed as part of a collaborative project between the Australian Institute of Family Studies and Crime Prevention Victoria. Two main questions are explored: Why do at-risk individuals differ in their susceptibility to antisocial behaviour? What individual, familial or environmental strengths help some vulnerable individuals to withstand risk and avoid progressing to antisocial behaviour? Amongst the findings are the salience of the early adolescent years; the powerful influence of peer relationships; importance of parenting and the family environment; and influence of school attachment and adjustment.

Opinion: Revisiting America's date rape controversy

Alexandra Neame

This article outlines the Australian policy context that indicates the emergence of relationship violence as a topical issue, and the reasons why we might expect a hostile reaction whenever violence in relationships (particularly sexual violence) makes its way onto the public agenda. It then revisits America's 'date rape' debate of the late 1980s and early 1990s, and critically evaluates the aggressive response that emerged in that country against research indicating higher rates of rape in dating relationships than the media and general public were willing or able to accept.

Young people and mentoring: Time for a national strategy

Robyn Hartley

The author was commissioned by the Dusseldorp Skills Forum, The Smith Family, and Big Brothers Big Sisters to prepare the National Strategy Paper on 'Young people and mentoring', which was launched in May 2004. Here, she discusses the current situation in Australia and outlines the main features of the strategy.

Conference report: A timely forum on families in the East Asia region

Ruth Weston

The first-ever East Asia Ministerial Forum on Families was held in April 2004, ten years after the United Nations International Year of the Family. It threw light on similarities and differences between participating countries regarding the various forms and functions of families, the current challenges faced by families in each country (particularly those linked with modernisation processes), and policies and programs established in each country to protect, support and thus strengthen its families. The forum culminated in the Hanoi Statement for Regional Cooperation on the Family. The author of this article attended the forum. She provides a synthesis of the various country statements on family issues, and outlines the nature of cooperative activities to which participating governments committed themselves in signing the Statement.

Levels and family correlates of positive adolescent development: A cross-national comparison

Sheryl Hemphill, John Toumbourou, Richard Catalano and Megan Mathers

Understanding positive youth development is crucial to inform prevention and intervention programs for behavioural and emotional problems, and to foster positive behaviour. This article reports the levels of positive school engagement, and family characteristics associated with engagement, in adolescents in Australia and the United States. It draws on the first wave of data collected in 2002 as part of the International Youth Development Study, a large cross-national study investigating the development of substance use and other behaviours in Australian and American school students. Brief information is included about the design and methodology of this study, and about the Social Development Model which underpins the research. 

Separate selves, tribal ties, and other stories: Making sense of different accounts of youth

Richard Eckersley

Are young people having the time of their lives, or struggling with life in their times? Research findings and commentaries on young people are often a recipe for confusion. The author draws on his new book, 'Well and good: How we feel and why it matters', to argue that it is not an 'either/or' situation, and to call for a greater appreciation of the causal layers and complexities behind the patterns and trends in young people's well being.

Forming couple relationships: Adolescents' aspirations and young adults' actualities

Lixia Qu and Grace Soriano

The number of people living without a partner has increased substantially over the last few decades. Are men and women shirking the idea of marriage and long-term relationships, or are they having difficulties in forming a satisfying couple relationship? This paper uses two sources of data to assess the aspirations of boys and girls about forming a long-term relationship or getting married: the Australian Temperament Project; and wave 2 of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey.

DNA paternity testing without the knowledge or consent of the mother: New technology, new choices, new debates

Michael Gilding

New technologies are creating new choices and dilemmas in contemporary families. DNA parentage testing exemplifies this process. This article examines the contentious issue of DNA paternity testing without the knowledge or consent of the mother. It discusses terminology; the context, including a brief overview of the DNA parentage testing industry; public opinion; proposed regulation; a possible way forward in the regulation of tests.

The value mothers place on paid work and their feelings of life control

Jennifer Renda and Jody Hughes

Generally, the value mothers place on paid work in their lives is closely matched to their labour force status. But sometimes there is a mismatch. This article explores the relationship between work orientation, labour force status and control using data from the Australian Institute of Family Studies 2002 Family and Work Decisions survey which involved a nationally representative random sample of 2405 Australian mothers. Information is provided about the survey, findings are presented, and policy implications are discussed.