Issue 97

Family Matters No. 97, 2016

Journal issue feature image

Supporting family wellbeing

In this edition of Family Matters we focus on family wellbeing, particularly as it is improved - or not - by welfare sector interventions.

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Executive Editors: Elly Robinson & Kelly Hand

Editorial panel: Daryl Higgins, Elly Robinson, Kelly Hand, Rachel Carson, Monica Campo, Jenny Baxter, Lixia Qu, Rebecca Jenkins   

Editor: Katharine Day

Cover art: The Family Matters No. 97 cover painting is by Ronald Brown, On Parade, mixed media work on canvas 120 cm x 90cm. Reproduced courtesy of the artist. View Ron’s work at Gallery 247 and Bluethumb

Publication details

Family Matters No. 97
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, March 2016, 84 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Assessing the effectiveness of school-based sexual abuse prevention programs

Kerryann Walsh, Karen Zwi, Susan Woolfenden and Aron Shlonsky

This article highlights the importance of systematic reviews for research synthesis, with the strength of this approach demonstrated through the authors’ recent Cochrane review into the effectiveness of school-based programs for the prevention of child sexual abuse. It describes the features of evaluation studies and the differences between systematic reviews and more traditional literature reviews, before summarising the findings of their recent Cochrane review.

Welfare conditionality as a child protection tool

Kelly Hand, Ilan Katz, Matthew Gray and Rob Bray

In the Northern Territory, child protection case workers can call for families to be subject to “Child Protection Income Management” if they believe this form of conditional welfare will improve child outcomes. This article summarises a recent research study into its use and effectiveness. The article describes the aims and methodology of the study, how the Child Protection Income Management scheme operates, the characteristics of families referred to the scheme, referrals to other support services and interventions, and the views of caseworkers on its effectiveness.

Payee mothers’ interactions with the Department of Human Services-Child Support: A summary of recent qualitative findings

Kristin Natalier, Dr Kay Cook and Torna Pitman

This article explores mothers' experiences with the child support scheme in Australia, highlighting how interactions with the Department of Human Services-Child Support (DHS-CS) agency can facilitate or undermine the receipt of child support. It summarises findings from a recent qualitative study with 37 payee mothers, regarding the key institutional and interactional processes that create barriers to the receipt of expected and useful amounts of child support, the way the costs of children are calculated, DHS-CS approaches to enforcing payer compliance, and agency and worker communication practices. The impact on mothers in fearful or high-conflict relationships with their former partners is also discussed.

Parent-only care in Australia: What it is and why it matters

Emma Phillips and Paula Baron

Recently, there has been much in the media about increasing women's workforce participation and the related issue of providing informal and formal child care. However, what are the issues and views of parents who are not prepared to "outsource" the care of their children? This article draws attention to this overlooked group. It reviews the international literature on "parent-only" care and presents findings from an Australian study on parent-only carers' values and motivations and the impact on labour force participation.

Marriage and relationship education: Recent research findings

Joanne Commerford and Cathryn Hunter

This article reviews the research on relationship education and relationship counselling. It investigates the effectiveness of these strategies in working with couples who are at varying stages of their relationship - from highly satisfied at the beginning of their relationship, to highly distressed and considering separation. The article addresses some of the complexities and issues surrounding how and why these strategies work in order to assist practitioners in engaging more effectively with couples and families.

The Expert Panel project: Towards better outcomes for families

Elly Robinson and Marian Esler

In 2014, the Australian Government Department of Social Services commissioned the establishment of a panel of experts to help service providers in the family support sector to deliver evidence-based programs and practices. It is funded from 2014-19 and is hosted by Child Family Community Australia (CFCA). This article describes the development of the Panel and its processes, management, evaluation, and initial projects. The Panel comes as a response to sector calls for increasing the use of evidence-based programs and practices, encouraging innovation, and changing the focus of data collection from just measuring outputs to true outcomes measurement.

Doing gender overnight?: Parenthood, gender and sleep quantity and quality in Australia

Stefanie Plage, Francisco Perales and Janeen Baxter

The importance of sleep cannot be underestimated, as sleep affects domains such as physical and mental health, work-related productivity, and longevity. Yet, we know surprisingly little about the social determinants of sleep in contemporary Australia. International evidence suggests that parenthood and gender are important factors influencing individuals' sleep quantity and quality, with parents sleeping less and worse than non-parents and mothers sleeping less and worse than fathers. We provide first-time evidence of these patterns in the Australian context using data from the 2013 wave of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey and multivariate regression models. Our findings are consistent with those from previous US and UK research, and indicate that sleep quantity and sleep quality are greater amongst (i) childless individuals than parents, (ii) parents of young children (ages 2 to 4) than parents of very young children (ages 0 and 1), and (iii) fathers than mothers. We take these results as evidence of gender-unequal sleep arrangements in Australian family households, whereby women take primary responsibility for the overnight care of children. Programs aimed at reducing the sleep debt experienced by parents, particularly mothers, are needed to reduce sleep inequalities that may compound with inequalities in other life domains.