Issue 93

Family Matters No. 93, 2013

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Beyond disadvantage

This issue of Family Matters presents a range of articles on how disadvantage and inequality affects families

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Executive Editors: Jacqueline Stewart and Kelly Hand

Editorial panel: Jennifer Baxter, Ben Edwards, Kelly Hand, Alan Hayes, Daryl Higgins, Rae Kaspiew, Veronica Meredith, Elly Robinson, Debbie Scott, Jacqueline Stewart, Matthew Taylor

Editors: Lan Wang and Kirstie Innes-Will

Cover art: The Family Matters No. 93 cover painting is by Melissa Read-Devine, The Blue Fence, Acrylic on canvas 76 x 76 cm. Courtesy of 19 Karen Contemporary Artspace, Queensland <>

Publication details

Family Matters No. 93
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, December 2013, 108 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Greater gender equality: What role for family policy?

Willem Adema

Though great advances have been made towards gender equality in education, these gains are yet to be translated into more equal labour market outcomes. Across the OECD nations, women continue to participate less in paid work, earn less than men, are less likely to make it to the top of the career ladder, and are more likely to spend their final years in poverty. This article explores how family policy can support greater gender equality in paid and unpaid work, for parents in particular. Not only does labour market equality provide a more efficient use of economic resources, it advances the pursuit of individual aspirations, improves family resources, and promotes economic growth

Poverty and welfare: Marginalisation and destitution in the aftermath of the United States recession

Laura Lein

Two recent disasters - the global economic recession and Hurricane Katrina - have drawn attention to the lived experience of poverty in the United States and the weaknesses in programs designed to protect families from the effects of poverty. This article describes the impact of these disasters on trends in poverty, unemployment, underemployment, marginalisation, and disconnection in America, and how this poverty is experienced by individuals and families. The article also considers the areas where welfare policies and programs can best intervene.

Early childhood poverty and adult achievement, employment and health

Greg Duncan, Ariel Kalil and Kathleen Ziol-Guest

In the United States, children from poor families begin school well behind their more affluent peers and, if anything, lose ground during their school years. New research in this article also shows that - furthermore - poor children go on to complete less schooling, work and earn less, and are less healthy in adulthood. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), the article looks at the impact of low income in childhood - from the prenatal period through to 15 years - on school completion, adult earnings, hours worked, use of food stamps, police record, non-marital child bearing, and health outcomes such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. In conclusion, the article draws attention to the need for policy interventions aimed at addressing deep and persistent poverty during early childhood - a time of particular vulnerability.

Early education and care experiences and cognitive skills development: A comparative perspective between Australian and American children

Rebekah Levine Coley, Caitlin McPherran Lombardi and Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal

Australia and the US share many economic and cultural similarities, yet have policy differences in their support for children's early education and care (EEC) that may have differential implications for children's development. This study used nationally representative, longitudinal birth cohort studies from each country - the B cohorts of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC-B) and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-B) - to assess patterns of EEC among young children and influence of EEC on children's cognitive skills following school entry. Results found that Australian parents were more likely to use part-time EEC for their children, and the children were more likely to be in centre care during their infant and toddler years than American children, whereas American parents were more likely to use informal, home-based care and full-time EEC. Infant EEC was neither promotive nor detrimental for later cognitive skills. In both countries, later centre care was promotive of cognitive skills after school entry. These benefits came from toddler centre care in Australia and from preschool centre care in the US. The policy implications of these findings are discussed.

From training to practice transformation: Implementing a public health parenting program

Sally Gaven and Janet Schorer

The Triple P Positive Parenting Program is a public health parenting intervention aimed at reducing risk factors associated with poor developmental outcomes in children. In 2007, the New South Wales Government funded universal free access the program for all families with children aged between three and eight years. Two years later, Nexus Management Consulting was commissioned to evaluate the impact of the initiative on processes and practices and child and parent outcomes, as well as cost effectiveness. This article provides an overview of the evaluation's key findings, focusing on the implementation challenges of achieving population reach with a public health parenting program.

Workplace support, breastfeeding and health

Julie Smith, Ellen McIntyre, Lyn Craig, Sara Javanparast, Lyndall Strazdins (The Australian National University) and Kate Mortensen

Though breastfeeding is important to both maternal and child health, few Australian infants are breastfeed as recommended - particularly among employed new mothers. This study aimed to identify the key barriers to and supports for combining breastfeeding with employment in workplaces. Based on survey data from 304 women from 62 different workplaces - who had returned to work after initiating breastfeeding - the study examined the associations between employment, leave and workplace factors, and exclusive breastfeeding at six months. Maternal work absenteeism and mother and child health were also examined. The study found that greater workplace support for breastfeeding through part time work, adjustable working hours, and perceived workplace support was significantly associated with exclusively breastfeeding at six months. Furthermore, not exclusively breastfeeding was associated with more frequent infant hospitalisations and time off work caring for a sick infant.

An extended family for life for children affected by parental substance dependence

Menka Tsantefski, Anne Parkes, Anne Tidyman and Maureen Campion

Problematic parental substance use is considered the most critical issue facing the Australian child protection system. Despite various policy initiatives, including the public health approach, notifications of child maltreatment and numbers of children in out-of-home care remain unacceptably high. Clearly, an alternative paradigm for working with substance-dependent parents and their children is warranted. This article proposes a new model for engagement with marginalised, substance-affected families, a model designed to enhance children's resilience, strengthen parental coping and reduce the likelihood of relapse from alcohol and other drug use through improved social networks. Odyssey House Victoria's Mirror Families Program, an innovation in practice originally devised to prevent placement disruption in out-of-home care, and adapted for use within an alcohol and other drug treatment service, is presented.

Multi-type maltreatment and polyvictimisation: A comparison of two research frameworks

Rhys Price-Robertson, Daryl Higgins and Suzanne Vassallo

One of the most recent major shifts in focus of child maltreatment research has been the recognition of the interrelatedness of childhood victimisation experiences. The purpose of this paper is to compare two of the main frameworks that have been developed to better understand and measure this interrelatedness: multi-type maltreatment and polyvictimisation. This paper first compares multi-type maltreatment and polyvictimisation conceptually, outlining the history of the development of the two frameworks, the measurement tools used to operationalise them, and a selection of illustrative findings from some important studies in their respective histories. Second, the paper compares these frameworks empirically, using data from the Australian Temperament Project to explore their utility in identifying the long-term psychosocial outcomes associated with childhood adversity. The paper demonstrates the value of both the multi-type maltreatment and polyvictimisation frameworks, and suggests that both have different strengths that may make them preferable for particular forms of research.