Family-related life events

Family-related life events

Insights from two Australian longitudinal studies

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

Research Report No. 22 — December 2012
Family-related life events

The report examines the prevalence of different life events among Australian adults, and the links between life events, personal and family characteristics, and personal wellbeing.

Life events include such things as family formation or separation, serious illness or bereavement, financial or employment change, or moving house.

The report presents insights from two large-scale national longitudinal datasets: the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey - which provides a broad population view - and Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) - which focuses exclusively on families with young children.

This report follows on from a literature review on the trends and impacts of life events, published as Research Report No. 20.

Key messages

The experiences of some events also varied according to socio-economic status, with those withrelatively low socio-economic status being more likely than others to report relationship statuschanges, loss of paid work, a major worsening of financial circumstances, and moving house.Some of these experiences were also linked with being a young parent and with regional location.

Although some events are especially likely to occur at certain ages, the likelihood of experiencingothers—such as the serious illness or injury of a family member—varied little across age groups.

People who experienced certain life events (e.g., financial crisis, relationship separation and beinga victim of physical violence) tended to have lower wellbeing prior to the life event occurringcompared with those who did not have such experience and to experience further declines inwellbeing after the event occurred.

The experience of multiple life events was associated with declines in wellbeing from an alreadyrelatively low base.

Authors and Acknowledgements

Dr Lixia Qu, Dr Jennifer Baxter and Dr Lawrie Moloney are Senior Research Fellows, Ruth Weston is the Assistant Director (Research), and Professor Alan Hayes is the Director, all at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.


This work was commissioned and funded by the Australian Government Department of Human Services (DHS). We are very grateful to the enthusiastic support and sound advice we received throughout the entire process by the DHS team with whom we worked, especially Rosie Burn, Jodi Sargent and Robyn Longman. We wish to thank Lan Wang, the Institute’s Publishing Manager, for both editing and polishing this work, and Jessie Dunstan for her assistance in formatting some tables.

Regardless of these invaluable contributions, we, the authors, remain responsible for any errors or omissions.

The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey was initiated and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) and is managed by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research (Melbourne Institute). Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) is conducted in a partnership between FaHCSIA, the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The findings and views reported in this paper are those of the authors and should not be attributed to FaHCSIA, the Melbourne Institute, AIFS or the ABS.

Publication details

Research Report
No. 22
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, December 2012.
130 pp.
ISSN: 
1477-1477
ISBN: 
978-1-922038-08-1
Suggested citation:

Qu, L., Baxter, J., Weston, R., Moloney, L., & Hayes, A. (2012). Family-related life events: Insights from two Australian longitudinal studies (Research Report No. 22). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.

AIFS news

Get the latest news about our publications, research and upcoming events.

Subscribe