The Stronger Families in Australia (SFIA) Study: Phase 2

The Stronger Families in Australia (SFIA) Study: Phase 2

Ben Edwards, Killian Mullan, Ilan Katz and Daryl J. Higgins

Research Report No. 29 — September 2014
The Stronger Families in Australia Study: Phase 2

This report presents a medium- to long-term evaluation of the Communities for Children (CfC) initiative. This Australian Government initiative aims to improve services for young children and their families and the communities they grow up in. The evaluation, known as the Stronger Families in Australia (SFIA) study, looks at the impact of CfC on child, family, and community outcomes. Phase 1 of the evaluation, published in 2009, found a small but positive impact of the initiative. This new report presents findings from Phase 2 of the study, which followed up 1,927 of the original study families, with the children now aged from 8-10 years old. Phase 2 also introduced a new cohort of 1,800 families and four new "contrast" sites.

Key messages

CfC has had some of the desired effects on parents and children, but these were not strong or sustained for long enough to make statistically significant differences over the long term.

Over the five waves of SFIA, the vast majority of findings indicated that the wellbeing of children and parents in CfC communities was better than in comparison communities, even if these differences did not reach statistical significance.

Very few studies of early intervention services follow children for six years and provide the depth of information that SFIA has been able to deliver.

Many other studies of early intervention services have also failed to find sustained positive effects over the longer term (e.g., NESS Team, 2012).

Whether another model, a more intensive version of CfC or a set of evidence-based interventions would have had a greater effect is not known.

Authors and Acknowledgements

Ben Edwards is a Senior Research Fellow (Executive Manager, Longitudinal Studies) and Daryl Higgins is Deputy Director (Research) at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Ilan Katz is a Professor in the Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales. At the time of writing, Killian Mullan was a Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Family Studies and is now based at the London School of Economics.


The authors would like to acknowledge and thank the families who generously gave their time to participate in Phase 2 of the Stronger Families in Australia (SFIA) study. We acknowledge the contribution of Mark Sipthorp, for his role in the SFIA data management, and of Professor Alan Hayes AM, AIFS Director, for his valuable feedback and direction throughout the life of the study and the Phase 2 analysis.

This report makes some use of data from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). LSAC is conducted in partnership between the Department of Social Services (DSS), the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), with advice provided by a consortium of leading researchers. Findings and views expressed in this publication are those of individual authors and may not reflect those of the AIFS, DSS, or the ABS.

Publication details

Research Report
No. 29
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, September 2014.
100 pp.
ISSN: 
1477-1477
ISBN: 
978-1-922038-62-3
Suggested citation:

Edwards, B., Mullan, K., Katz, I., & Higgins, D. J. (2014). The Stronger Families in Australia (SFIA) Study: Phase 2 (Research Report No. 29). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.

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