Issue 71

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Family Matters No. 71, 2005

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Attitudes to child support

The experience of time with children after divorce; Commitment in marriage and relationships; Mother's employment transitions following childbirth

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Editorial panel: Matthew Gray, Alan Hayes, Meredith Michie, Catherine Rosenbrock, Denise Swift, Ruth Weston

Editor: Meredith Michie

Cover art: Vic O'Connor,born Melbourne, 1918, Woman and Children, Studies 1950. Pencil and watercolour, 30.5 x 41 cm. Signed, titled and dated. Collection of the artist, Courtesy Bridget McDonnell Gallery, Carlton.

Publication details

Family Matters No. 71
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, June 2005, 72 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Time to rethink time?: The experience of time with children after divorce

Bruce Smyth

This article re examines the notion of time in the context of post separation parenting. It is argued that much of the recent debate in Australia on the merits or otherwise of 50/50 shared care after separation is not about parenting time per se, but about the subjective experience of time with children. Two types of time may exist after separation, each largely gendered: for non resident fathers, time with children is typically experienced as stilted, shallow, artificial and brief; for resident mothers, time with children may often be experienced as fluid, deep, demanding and a given. Patterns of care after separation that allow children to experience meaningful time with each parent are important for children's and parents' well being. This article explores these ideas in the context of recent research into parent child contact after separation.

Commentary: Modernising the Child Support Scheme: Some reflections

Bruce Smyth

A ministerial taskforce recently proposed a major overhaul of the Child Support Scheme. While government is currently considering the Taskforce's recommendations, there is little doubt that this review has acted as a stimulus for the collection and integration of a raft of new data to help improve and 'modernise' the Scheme. The author, one of the members of the Taskforce, reflects on the work of the Taskforce in the push towards evidence based policy in the context of a much larger family law reform agenda. He outlines three fundamental proposed changes to the current scheme: that the incomes of both parents count; that the children's ages count, with higher costs allocated for adolescent children; and that the financial costs of contact to non resident parents count.

Mothers' employment transitions following childbirth

Jennifer Baxter

The age of the youngest child is an important determinant of the probability of mothers being employed. The relationship between childbearing and employment recognises transitions out of and into work following childbirth, with some women continuing to work through their childbearing years and others taking a break from paid work. Of those women who take a break from work, some return to work faster than others. The analysis contained in this article investigates these breaks from work and the return to work, looking at how work transition patterns have changed from the 1970s through to the 1990s, and whether there are certain personal or family characteristics associated with these patterns.

The use of family-friendly work arrangements by lone and couple mothers

Jody Hughes and Matthew Gray

Access to a range of flexible work arrangements is important in assisting employed mothers to balance their family and work responsibilities. While there has been a substantial amount of research on the use of family friendly work arrangements by Australian mothers, little is known about the use of these work arrangements by lone mothers and how this differs from that of couple mothers. This article addresses the question of whether lone and couple mothers differ in their use of, and unmet need for, family friendly work arrangements. These are questions on which there is little published research.

What is commitment?: How married and cohabiting parents talk about their relationships

Jan Pryor and Josie Roberts

In this article the authors discuss the findings of a small qualitative New Zealand study that examined the accounts of married and cohabiting parents about their views of relationship commitment. The authors asked couples to describe the concept of commitment, their experiences of commitment as partners and parents, why they had chosen to marry or not marry, and barriers to leaving their relationships.

Research and evaluation in marriage and relationship education

Robyn Parker

Marriage and relationship education has been available in some form in Australia for more than half a century. In recent years, the availability of funding for marriage and relationship education programs and the need for accountability that accompanies such funding, have helped engender a greater focus on two related aspects of service delivery, namely research and assessment of programs. Researching and assessing or evaluating marriage and relationship education programs present challenges for practitioners. However, the author illustrates that the process is not necessarily as onerous as might be thought.

Working with adolescents in the education system to prevent sexual assault

Monique Keel

The high rates of sexual assault experienced by young people suggest a need for prevention initiatives to be developed and focused on adolescents. This paper discusses current best practice approaches to prevention with a focus on schools based programs. The author reflects on past sexual assault prevention initiatives with young women and men, and considers what direction future initiatives might take, including proposed policy changes. As well as a review of what is considered best practice sexual assault prevention in schools, an outline of two programs is provided: one run by the Centre Against Sexual Assualt (CASA) in Victoria and one run by SHine in South Australia.

Beliefs about IVF as a personal fallback option

Ruth Weston and Lixia Qu

Assisted reproductive technology has enabled many couples to fulfil their dreams of having a family. However, the success rate of treatments involving this technology declines rapidly when women enter their thirties. The chances of a woman having a live baby through IVF are also related to the reasons for infertility and the nature of the treatment received. This paper draws on data from the Fertility Decision Making Project to examine views regarding the use of IVF held by men and women in their twenties and thirties who were in a committed relationship. Sociodemographic factors linked with respondents' beliefs about their preparedness to use IVF and its likely success are examined.

Attitudes to child support in Australia

Bruce Smyth and Ruth Weston

To help the Ministerial Taskforce on Child Support in its review of the Child Support Scheme, the Australian Institute of Family Studies recently conducted a study of public attitudes to child support. This article summarises key findings from the study. The authors discuss attitudes relating to broad principles of the Scheme, the extent to which new partners and second families should be taken into account, and the link between child support and parent child contact. The research is predicated on the belief that community perceptions, values and expectations, particularly those of separated parents, need to be understood as part of the evolving nature of child support policy.