Parenting and Families in Australia

FaHCSIA Social Policy Research Paper

216 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2010

See all articles by Stephen R. Zubrick

Stephen R. Zubrick

Perth Children’s Hospital - Telethon Kids Institute

Grant J. Smith

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Jan Nicholson

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Ann Sanson

University of Melbourne - Department of Psychology

Tanyana A. Jackiewicz

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: June 1, 2008

Abstract

This report describes the relationships between factors that influence the carers’ feelings and perceptions about the way they parent their children, about the way their families function and about the supports they use as parents. These in turn may affect developmental outcomes for children and the relationship of parenting practices to these outcomes is summarised in the Outcome Index.

Background: The researchers used Wave 1 of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) dataset–5,107 infants aged between 3 to12 months and 4,983 children aged between 4 to 5 years. LSAC is a large, nationally representative dataset with an early childhood development and social policy focus. Therefore the findings are broadly applicable to all Australian families with young children and directly relevant to social policy development and practice.

Aim of the paper: This paper analyses the first wave of LSAC data to examine: • parenting styles and family functioning • factors influencing parents feelings and perceptions about the way they parent their children • the roles and contributions of parents who do not live with their children • feelings of stress and sources of social support for parents • the relationship of parenting practices to child outcomes.

The quality of parenting ‘matters’ for children: • The findings give a clear indication that family and parenting characteristics are significantly related to a child’s development, with parenting practices having a particularly prominent role. • The study found that parenting measures such as parental warmth, hostility, consistency and self-efficacy were the strongest predictors of negative outcomes for infants. • Hostile parenting was a particularly strong predictor of negative outcomes for 4 to 5 year-old children. • Although not significant when examining infant outcomes, secondary carer characteristics were related to outcomes for 4 to 5 year-old children. • Very few parents reported parenting behaviour that could be classified as ‘abnormal’ or ‘abusive’; however, even variations within the ‘normal’ range acted as predictors for child outcomes. Australian parents feel they are doing a good job • The vast majority of parents (approximately 98 per cent) felt they are good parents. Given that self-efficacy has the potential to influence child outcomes, this finding is very encouraging. There is a need for a continued policy focus on increasing capacity for improved social support • A large proportion of primary carers (approximately one in four) reported receiving low levels of social support. • In addition to being an important outcome measure in itself, social support was an important predictor in the mental health of parents: carers who reported low levels of support were more likely to report clinically significant psychological distress. • Contact with parents was a strong predictor of primary carer feelings of enough support (particularly in the infant sample). For carers with 4 to 5 year-old children, contact with friends and strong feelings of ‘connection’ with their community were strong predictors of feelings of support. • Policy generally needs to consider how opportunities for parents who do not have extended family at all, or lack family in the immediate vicinity, can be supported in the practical ways that families allow. • Given the significant relationship between contact with friends and community connectedness with feelings of support (for families with 4 to 5 year-old children), the continued policy concern to create communities that encourage connection and participation, that involve families and widen their contact and opportunity, and that lessen social isolation and invite opportunities for children, remains an important focus.

Levels of parent education are important: • In general within the LSAC data, relationships between parental education and parent and child variables were stronger than relationships with income. • This is seen in the LSAC data where income effects weaken when models include education (a form of human capital) and more direct measures of psychological distress and coping (forms of psychological capital). • This does not eliminate the importance of income to the development of children nor does it discount poverty of income as a basis of material disadvantage, inequality and a cause of stress. Rather, for a significant proportion of families, very low income is part of a more general exposure to low resource levels in other capital domains - that is, human (such as education), psychological and social capital domains - that increase risks of poor developmental outcomes.

For parents living in couple relationships, work is a two-edged sword: • With respect to work, the highest risks in terms of poorer child outcomes and poorer parental wellbeing were clearly associated with unemployment. • There are, however, clear trade-offs between parental abilities to provide levels of reciprocal support for each other in parenting children and to achieve a good level of relationship satisfaction. These were balanced differently in the infant and child cohorts. • For families with infants, having both parents working part time was related to higher reported levels of reciprocal support for parenting; however this was also related to secondary carers reporting low relationship satisfaction. Both parents being employed full time was predictive of higher reported relationship satisfaction. • For families with 4 to 5 year-old children, employment of both parents (either part-time or full-time) was related to higher levels of reciprocal support, but at the expense of relationship satisfaction: primary carers who were employed were more likely to report low relationship satisfaction; additionally, when both parents were employed part time, secondary carers were more likely to report higher levels of arguments.

Suggested Citation

Zubrick, Stephen R. and SMITH, GRANT J. and Nicholson, Jan and Sanson, Ann and Jackiewicz, Tanyana A., Parenting and Families in Australia (June 1, 2008). FaHCSIA Social Policy Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1703269 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1703269

Stephen R. Zubrick (Contact Author)

Perth Children’s Hospital - Telethon Kids Institute ( email )

100 Roberts Rd
Subiaco, Western Australia
Australia

GRANT J. SMITH

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Jan Nicholson

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Ann Sanson

University of Melbourne - Department of Psychology ( email )

School of Behavioural Science
Victoria 3010
Australia
(+61 3) 8344 6361 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.psych.unimelb.edu.au/staff/sanson.html

Tanyana A. Jackiewicz

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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