Parenting in Australian families

Parenting in Australian families

A comparative study of Anglo, Torres Strait Islander, and Vietnamese communities

Violet Kolar and Grace Soriano

Research Report No. 5 — January 2000
Parenting in Australian families

This report is based on the Australian Institute of Family Studies Parenting-21 Project which began in 1995 as part of a major international research collaboration focusing on parents and children in several different countries. Findings from the final stage of the Australian component of the Parenting-21 study are presented around two key themes.

The first focuses on parents, children and the wider societal context, exploring issues such as how society views parents, how parenting is learned, who is responsible for parenting, how parents judge themselves, and the influences of the wider social context, for example, work and social support, on parenting.

The second theme focuses on parenting practices such as teaching children values, particularly via household chores, rules and the involvement of children in decision making; how parents approach discipline; and their long term goals for their children.

The research is drawn from primary data on parenting generated from samples of parents from three culturally diverse communities: Anglo, Vietnamese and Torres Strait Islander families. The influence of cultural background on parents' beliefs and practices is explored by comparing parents from the three cultural groups.   

Authors and Acknowledgements

Violet Kolar has worked as a researcher at the Australian Institute of Family Studies for 12 years. Her formal qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts (major in Sociology) and a Masters Degree in Applied Social Research. Violet was involved with the Institute's Parenting-21 Study since its inception in 1995, with major responsibility for the management, conduct and administration of the project. From March 1998 to January 2000 Violet was the Acting Research Fellow on the project after the death of Dr Harry McGurk, the Institute's Director and the project's Principal Researcher. Violet was also responsible for managing the Institute's commitment and contribution to the international research collaboration. In this capacity she attended and presented papers at international conferences and project workshops in Canada, Italy, Switzerland and Spain. Violet has published widely in the Institute's research journal Family Matters.

Violet was the joint coordinator of the Institute's 1999/2000 seminar program. In mid-July 2000, she took up a new position with the Wallis Consulting Group.

Grace Soriano (BA GradDip (UP, Philippines), MSc (AIT, Thailand), GradDip SocWelfare (Monash)), is a Research Officer and Executive Assistant at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Her involvement in the Parenting-21 study began with the extension project involving parents from the Torres Strait Islands. From 1999, she became part of the international group working on the Australian component of the International Study of Parents, Children and Schools project and has attended and presented papers at the project workshop and meeting in Spain and China respectively.

Grace has also been involved with research on families in the Asia-Pacific region and had a major role in the preparation of three research reports on families in the Asia- Pacific region, two of which have been published by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) branch of the United Nations. Other publications include a chapter on the Filipino community in Families and Cultural Diversity in Australia (1995), published by Allen and Unwin in conjunction with the Institute; co-author of chapters in Australian Family Profiles: Social and Demographic Patterns (1997), published by the Institute; and co-author with Harry McGurk of 'Families and social development: the 21st century' in Social Child (1998), published by Psychology Press, UK. She is currently working with the Research Operations Unit of the Institute.


This report is based on the Parenting-21 Project which began in 1995 as part of a major international research collaboration focusing on parents and children in several different countries. Known as the International Study of Parents, Children, and Schools, the project was directed by Sara Harkness with Charles Super as Co-Director.

Dr Harry McGurk, the Director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies from 1994 until his untimely death in 1998, was instrumental in bringing together senior colleagues to form the international collaboration. We have had the pleasure and privilege of working with Sara Harkness, Charles Super, Jesus Palacios, Vanna Axia, Barbara Welles-Nystrom, Olaf Zylicz, Andrzej Eliasz, Magdalena Marszal-Wisniewska, Alfredo Oliva, Moises Rios, Carmen Moreno, Sabrina Bonichini, and numerous others whom it is not possible to mention. It has been a most rewarding and stimulating experience from which we have gained both professionally and personally.

Harry was also responsible for broadening and developing the Australian component of the study as an Institute project in its own right. Harry was a passionate advocate for families and was deeply committed to the project, seeing it as an opportunity to celebrate the love, dedication and investment that the vast majority of parents make to raise their children.

This report represents the final stage of the Australian component of Parenting-21. Its completion would not have been possible without Harry's dedicated preparatory work, and the support and encouragement of a number of Institute staff as well as external colleagues. In particular, an immense debt of gratitude is owed to Adam Tomison, for his expertise, ideas and critical comments on various drafts of the report. We are extremely grateful to Peter Saunders and Ann Sanson who also commented critically and provided suggestions at various stages of the report; and to Robyn Hartley whose critical comments provided the structure of the final section. Analysis would have been harder without the programming expertise and hard work of Eva Mills, the CATI manager, to whom we are very grateful.

We extend our thanks to Ernest Hunter (Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, the University of Queensland) and Trevor Batrouney, who were both project directors of the Parenting-21 Extension Project and whose commitment ensured that the study included families from the Torres Strait Islands. The comments and support of the Torres Strait Islander Council, and in particular Grace Fischer (chairperson), are greatly appreciated.

Special thanks are also extended to Rowena Buchanan, Judy Davenport, James Gela, Dvora Liberman, Di Press, and Lan Vuong for their outstanding work on the study. As interviewers, they represented the public face of the Australian Institute of Family Studies and provided an important link to participating parents.

Most of all, we are deeply indebted to all the parents who took part in the study. This report is based on the views of parents of young children, and without their commitment, enthusiasm, their generosity of time, and willingness to share their views and experiences, this study would not have been possible.

Publication details

Research Report
No. 5
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, January 2000.
78 pp.
ISSN: 
1477-1477
ISBN: 
0 642 39484 9
Suggested citation:

Kolar, V., & Soriano, G. (2000). Parenting in Australian families: A comparative study of Anglo, Torres Strait Islander, and Vietnamese communities (Research Report No. 5). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.

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