Issue 90

Family Matters No. 90, 2012

Journal issue feature image

Life events

Prevalence of potential family life difficulties; women's return to work after maternity leave; transition to school; and effects of separation on grandparents.

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Executive Editor: Alan Hayes

Editorial panel: Jennifer Baxter, Catherine Brown, David de Vaus, Ben Edwards, Jacqui Harvey, Alan Hayes, Daryl Higgins, Rhys Price-Robertson, Carol Soloff

Editor: Lan Wang

Cover art: The Family Matters 90 cover painting is by Lucette Dalozzo, Ainsi Va La Vie 16, November 201, Acrylic on board 90 × 120 cm. Courtesy of Dalozzo Art Gallery, Sanctuary Cove QLD.

Publication details

Family Matters No. 90
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, September 2012, 120 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Experiences and effects of life events : Evidence from two Australian longitudinal studies

Jennifer Baxter, Lixia Qu, Lawrie Moloney, Ruth Weston and Alan Hayes

This article summarises some of the key findings from empirical research on the experiences and effects of various life events on personal wellbeing. Taken together, the findings indicate that social address influences the likelihood of experiencing multiple potentially stressful life events, and limits the capacity of individuals and their families to negotiate these successfully. The results also provide a basis for targeting services to those who are more likely to be placed at risk as a result of the load of life events that may befall them. As such, prevention and early intervention efforts are best targeted and tailored to those most at risk. The research drew on data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey and Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC).

The prevalence of potential family life difficulties in a national longitudinal general population sample of Australian children

Jennifer Jacobs, Kingsley Agho and Beverley Raphael

The aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of Australian children's exposure to a range of potential family life difficulties.The sample comprised children who participated in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, a nationally representative general population sample of Australian children.The most common potential family life difficulties reported by parents about their children were chronic health/developmental conditions, financial hardship, living in a single parent household and parent separation or divorce. Additionally, bullying at school was common in the older ages of the second cohort. Exposure to potential family life difficulties appeared substantially higher among children who were of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origins.The experience of potential family life difficulties was common in this study. Knowledge of the proportion of children in the general population who experience potential family life difficulties is important in understanding the experience of childhood in Australia and the possible role that the difficulties play in children's wellbeing and health, and also provides a background against which the lifelong outcomes of these potential difficulties can be considered.

The role of planning, support, and maternal and infant factors in women's return to work after maternity leave

Melissa Coulson, Helen Skouteris and Cheryl Dissanayake

Workforce participation by mothers of young children is not a new phenomenon; however, few studies have examined factors associated with returning to work after maternity leave, particularly in the Australian context. This study followed 186 pregnant Australian women who intended to return to work within 12 months post-partum, from late in pregnancy until they had returned to work, or their child was 13 months old. With the aim of examining various factors that contribute to women returning to work after maternity leave, factors both internal and external to the woman, and occurring during pregnancy and post-partum were considered. The results indicated that a difficult infant temperament, more planning during pregnancy, greater workplace support, fewer depressive symptoms and anticipating taking a shorter maternity leave differentiated women who did return to work from those who did not. The theoretical implications of the findings, and practical suggestions are discussed.

Starting school: A pivotal life transition for children and their families

Mary Sayers, Sue West, Jen Lorains, Bella Laidlaw and Rachel Robinson

This paper provides an overview of two measurement initiatives and two case studies that aim to support improved transitions to primary school. The Australian Early Development Index and Outcomes and Indicators of a Positive Transition to School are initiatives aimed at measuring development of children at school entry and the process of transition to school respectively. The two case studies - The Transition: A Positive Start to School Initiative, and the Linking Schools and Early Years project - showcase approaches, strategies, resources and policy that aim to improve the transition to school process. The case studies provide examples of the importance of local relationships and partnership approaches between families, services and schools, to plan, implement, evaluate and strengthen transition strategies and activities. This paper argues that local stakeholders can support optimal transitions to school for children and their families but what is also needed for the future is collection and access to local data to measure the process and outcomes of transition approaches across Australia so we can be sure they are having the impact intended.

Family transitions as children start schools

Sue Dockett, Bob Perry and Emma Kearney

The transition to school is a milestone in the lives of children and families. While a great deal of research has emphasised the changes encountered and managed by children as they start school, less attention has been directed towards the changes experienced by families at this time. Where families experience complex support needs, the time of transition to school can present both opportunities and challenges for all involved. This article reports case studies of three families with complex support needs as their children started school. It notes the changes encountered by parents as they work to build new relationships around the school context, construct identities as parents of school children and balance family life to incorporate the new context of school. It examines the ways in which the strengths and challenges of these families influenced the transition to school. The experiences of these families contributed to the identification of elements of policy and practice conditions that promote positive engagement with school within the context of a network of appropriate support.

Parental separation and grandchildren: The multiple perspectives of grandparents

Julie Deblaquiere, Lawrie Moloney and Ruth Weston

This article reports on grandparents' experiences of the effects of parental separation on relationships with their grandchildren, as well as grandparents' perceived changes in relationships between them and their adult children, and between them and their adult children's former partners. The analysis presented here is based on comments provided by 50 grandparents who participated in one of a series of focus groups held in Melbourne as part of the Grandparents in Separated Families Study 2009. The data revealed some of the antecedents and consequences of issues such as geographical distance, financial capacity, pre- and post-separation relationships, moral judgements of right and wrong, commitment to the role, judicious use of legal processes and a capacity to see the situation from the perspective of "the other", all of which appear to contribute to the growth or decline of post-separation relationships generally, and post-separation relationships with their grandchildren in particular.

Family grief therapy: A vital model in oncology, palliative care and bereavement

Tammy Schuler, Talia Zaider and David Kissane

Life-threatening medical illness, such as cancer, brings to the family a stressful life event that challenges coping and adaptation. Family functioning has been shown to be predictive of psychosocial outcome for family members caring for a dying relative, including adaptation during a subsequent period of bereavement. This article examines Family Focused Grief Therapy, a method of family-centered care based on the use of family therapy for those families at risk of maladaptive outcome. This model has been shown to prevent complicated grief and depressive disorders in bereavement. Optimising family support via palliative care services can do much to sustain the wellbeing of family caregivers.