Parent-child contact and post-separation parenting arrangements

Parent-child contact and post-separation parenting arrangements

Research Report No. 9 — July 2004
Parent-child contact and post-separation parenting arrangements

Edited by Bruce Smyth

The report presents qualitative data from a series of ten focus groups which formed the Parent-Child Contact Study, a component of the larger Australian Institute of Family Studies Caring for Children after Parental Separation Project.

Fifty-four separated or divorced parents took part in the focus group discussions about different aspects of parent-child contact. The qualitative data are also embedded in the wider national picture through an examination of data derived from a large representative sample of separated/divorced parents who participated in the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey.

Authors and Acknowledgements

Catherine Caruana is a Senior Research Officer at the Australian Institute of Family Studies, and is part of the team working on the Caring for Children after Parental Separation Project. Prior to joining the Institute, she worked primarily as a family law practitioner, a child and family mediator, and a policy and community development lawyer in the area of family law.

Anna Ferro is a Research Officer at the Australian Institute of Family Studies, and is part of the team working on the Caring for Children after Parental Separation Project. She has worked on this project since joining the Institute in 2002.

Bruce Smyth is a Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Family Studies, and is responsible for conceptualising and managing the Caring for Children after Parental Separation Project. Since joining the Institute in 1995, he has published widely on an array of issues related to divorce and post-separation patterns of parenting.

Ruth Weston is a Principal Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Family Studies, heading the Institute's Family and Marriage Research Program. Over the past two decades, Ruth has published extensively on a range of issues, including quality of life, couple formation and relationship stability, fertility decision-making, and parent-adolescent relationships. She is perhaps best known for her work in the Settling Up-Settling Down series on the economic and emotional consequences of divorce.

Carol Whitfield is a Research Officer at the Department of Sustainability and Environment, State Government of Victoria. At the time that this report was written, she was on placement at the Institute as part of the Sociology Intern Program at Swinburne University of Technology.

Ilene Wolcott is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Research, Swinburne University of Technology. For many years prior to this, Ilene was a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Her publications and expertise on work-and-family issues are well known, both in Australia and overseas.

Lixia Qu is a Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Her research has included demographic trends analysis, children's living arrangements after parental separation, couple formation, and changes in and determinants of labour force participation of lone and couple mothers.


This report uses data from the confidentialised unit record file from the Household, Income and Labour Market Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. The HILDA survey is funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services. The survey is designed and managed by a consortium led by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne. Other partners are the Australian Council for Educational Research and the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Further details can be found at the web site address:HILDA Survey

The authors would like to thank Ruth Weston, David de Vaus and Ann Sanson for their unwavering support. They are also grateful to the following people: Ros Hurworth for her expert tuition on focus group methodology; Lawrie Moloney and Richard Muntz for moderating or assisting with some of the men's focus groups; Christine McCarthy, Carolyn Shaw and Claire Walker for their meticulous transcriptions of the interviews; Elspeth McInness, Michael Green, Margo Northey and Jeremy Meagher for their insights on some of the family dynamics surrounding divorce; Christine Millward, Adrienne Burgess, Tess Ridge and Sophie Holloway for their helpful comments; and Meredith Michie for her ever impeccable editing. Any shortcomings or errors are, of course, the authors' own.

We are deeply indebted to focus group participants for disclosing much personal information about themselves and their post-separation circumstances. Most participants did so in the hope that this would make a difference to the lives of others. If we had a wand, our wish would be to take away the pain and grief that many participants - and their children - had experienced or were still experiencing. In some small way, the insights provided from their stories might act as markers, pothole flags, or beams of light for others.

In order to protect the identity of all participants and their significant others, the names of people and places used in this report have been changed.

This report is dedicated to the memory of Christine McCarthy, a colleague and dear friend of Institute staff.

Publication details

Research Report
No. 9
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, July 2004.
419 pp.
ISSN: 
1447-1477
ISBN: 
0 642 39512 8
Suggested citation:

Smyth, B. (Ed.). (2004). Parent-child contact and post-separation parenting arrangements (Research Report No. 9). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.

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