Issue 74

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Family Matters No. 74, 2006

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Children in context

Mothers' age and work characteristics, child and family services, neighbourhoods and community development

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Executive Editor: Matthew Gray

Editorial panel: Matthew Gray, Alan Hayes, Daryl Higgins, Robert Johnstone, Catherine Rosenbrock, Sue Tait, Ruth Weston

Editor: Ellen Fish

Cover art: Samantha Lord, born Perth 1971. Cubby House 2005, 102 x 137cm Oil on Canvas

Publication details

Family Matters No. 74
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, October 2006, 72 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Starting early, starting late: The health and wellbeing of mother and child

Lixia Qu, Grace Soriano and Ruth Weston

This article examines indicators of health and well being of new mothers of different ages and their infants. Using data from Growing Up in Australia, the first Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), five age groups of mothers are compared, ranging from teenagers to those who were 38 years or over when their first child was born. Together with related analysis published in the previous edition of Family Matters (no.73: 52-59), this article illustrates some of the challenges faced by such families. The authors look at these groups of mothers and their health related behaviours, personal health and well being, relationships with their partner (if they had a partner), and the birth circumstances and general health of their infant.

Viewpoint: Families do matter

Elaine Henry

In this article the author provides an insight into shifts in the community services sector involving a move from a welfare to a social enterprise orientation with greater emphasis on child and family focused prevention and early intervention. She illustrates the discussion with some examples of the initiatives of the Smith Family that reflect these changes in orientation and emphasis.

Closing the research-policy and research-practice gaps: Ideas for child and family services

Kerry Lewig, Fiona Arney and Dorothy Scott

The move towards evidence based practice and policy in the human services has been accompanied by an increasing recognition of the common goals and key differences between the three distinct cultures of research, policy and practice. These key differences, or cultural gaps, create barriers to using research evidence to develop practice interventions and policy decisions that could more effectively benefit children and families. This paper synthesises findings from the research utilisation literature which may help to close the cultural gaps and facilitate the use of research in child and family services.

Family trends: Snapshots of Australian Families with adolescents

Ruth Weston, Lixia Qu and Grace Soriano

Over the last few generations the composition of families and the roles and responsibilities of parents have changed substantially. Despite these transformations, the family unit remains the foundation of society and the place in which children are nurtured as they grow to maturity. This article provides a snapshot of Australian families with adolescent children and is based on statistics drawn from the 2001 Census, Wave 4 of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey (2004) and several publications from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In particular the authors provide information on family type, parents' employment circumstances, residential location and country of birth of parents, education and employment of adolescents, and issues seen as important by adolescents.

Parents of adults with an intellectual disability

Monica Cuskelly

There are an increasing number of adults with an intellectual disability living into middle and old age, and often these adults are cared for by their parents in the family home. Individuals who live in other accommodation generally still receive both practical and emotional support from their parents. This article reviews the literature, details some of the demands and strains experienced by parents of adults with an intellectual disability, and examines factors that research suggests may affect parents' capacities to cope with these.

Relationship trends: Researching married and cohabiting couples: A step in the right direction

Robyn Parker

The research literature generally presents a fairly positive view of married life: it is portrayed as conferring happiness, health and wealth on those who enter. But is the picture really as simple as it appears? Are methodological limitations in this area of research hindering an ability to understand the role of relationship type in the formation and maintenance of healthy couple relationships? In this article, the author examines a recent Australian study, the Australian longitudinal panel survey, Negotiating the Life Course (NLC), and in particular focuses on the relationship effect on women's health not only for those in marital as opposed to de facto relationships, but also for those women who had never married.

Views of the village: Parents' perceptions of their neighbourhoods

Ben Edwards

Parental views of their neighbourhoods can influence many decisions they make, including their choice of where to live and the extent to which children play outside. An understanding of the factors that are associated with parents' perceptions of neighbourhood facilities and a sense of belonging is important to create better policies to promote better child and family functioning. This article addresses the following questions of relevance to policymakers: Do parental perceptions of neighbourhood facilities and their sense of belonging differ according to the ages of the children? How similar are the perceptions of neighbourhood facilities and sense of belonging of parents living in the same neighbourhood? What features of the neighbourhood are associated with parental perceptions of neighbourhood facilities and belonging?

Family law update: Shared parental responsibility and the reshaping of family law

Catherine Caruana

This article provides a summary of the key amendments to the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006. The most significant changes deal with parental responsibility, time spent with children, the 'best interests' provisions, and the making of parenting plans and parenting orders. Amendments to procedural provisions seek to deflect disputing parents away from the courts, to minimise the adversarial nature of proceedings involving issues related to children and to encourage a culture of cooperative parenting after separation.

Paid work characteristics of mothers with infants

Jennifer Baxter and Matthew Gray

The labour market participation of mothers with young children has undergone significant changes in recent decades. Despite the extent of these changes, little is known about the types of jobs in which mothers with infants are employed. This paper, drawing on data from the first wave of the research study, Growing Up in Australia: the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, provides a detailed analysis of the jobs in which mothers are employed at this critical time in the family life course.

Investing in the early years: A community development approach

Helen Cheney and Jane Mallick

This article reports on the work of the Australian Institute of Family Studies in supporting the first phase of the Australian Government's investment in early childhood. It assesses the extent to which community development principles were put into practice in providing support to initiatives funded under the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy. At the Institute, phase 1 of the Strategy (2000-2004) was supported by the Stronger Families Learning Exchange (SFLEX), and phase 2 of the Strategy (2004-2009) is now supported by Communities and Families Clearinghouse Australia (CAFCA). This paper focuses on the learning and other benefits gained by Institute staff and stakeholders during the first phase of the strategy.