For Kid's Sake: Repairing the Social Environment for Australian Children and Young People

127 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2011

Date Written: September 1, 2011


This Report demonstrates from a large body of research evidence, that there has been a very serious deterioration in the wellbeing of children and young people in Australia in the last ten-fifteen years. The speed of that deterioration is startling. The most serious concerns relate to the wellbeing of adolescents, particularly teenage girls. The evidence for the deteriorating mental health of adolescents is consistent with findings from a large body of research from North America and Europe. The decline in the mental health of adolescents has long-term implications for future generations of children.

There are multiple reasons for these adverse trends, but a major cause is likely to be the substantial increase in family conflict and family breakdown over the last 30 years. In Australia, the likelihood that a child will not be living with both biological parents by the age of 15 has almost doubled within a generation. This is for two reasons. First, many more children are now being born into single mother families, and secondly, there has been a substantial increase in cohabiting couples having children. The odds of such cohabiting relationships breaking up are many times higher than for married couples. Children are affected both by family conflict and parental separation. They are indeed connected, because conflict between parents does not end on separation. Family breakdown also exposes children to an increased risk of child abuse, for example perpetrated by new male partners of the mother.

The report makes recommendations for how to repair the social environment in order to strengthen family life. These recommendations include a major new initiative in relationship education, primarily by volunteer instructors supported by the major relationship counselling organisations; the establishment of community trusts to fund family support programs in local communities; and the creation of a Families Commission at the federal level.

Keywords: Children, Adolescents, Parents, Family Breakdown, Mental health, Child abuse and neglect, Family support

JEL Classification: K10, K30, J12

Suggested Citation

Parkinson, Patrick, For Kid's Sake: Repairing the Social Environment for Australian Children and Young People (September 1, 2011). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 11/95, Available at SSRN:

Patrick Parkinson (Contact Author)

University of Queensland ( email )

Forgan Smith Building
The University of Queensland
St Lucia, Queensland 4072

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