1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/09/2010   
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Family

CHILDREN

The wellbeing of children depends to a large extent on the healthy functioning of the family environment. The greater diversity of family types, and the changing nature of family structures, means that many children experience family transitions that may affect their wellbeing. In addition, societal changes such as the increased labour force participation of women mean that many parents are working, and this can affect the amount of time they are able to spend with their children.

Children experiencing family transitions

While some families are able to minimise the impact of divorce or separation on children, and family conflict may sometimes be reduced after these events, adjusting to new family circumstances can take time, and some adults and children remain stressed for years afterwards. Research suggests the risk of poor outcomes is increased for children who experience such family related transitions (Pryor and Rogers 2001). However, other research shows that family features such as warmth, loving care, good parent-child relationships and monitoring children’s behaviour are important for outcomes, and these can be largely independent of family structure (Sanson and Lewis 2001).

The proportion of children under 18 years of age who had a natural parent who lived elsewhere, has been fairly stable over the past decade (22% in 2006-07 compared with 21% in 1997). Of those children in this situation in 2006-07, three-quarters lived in one parent families. In 2006-07, 15% of adults had experienced the divorce or separation of parents before the age of 18 years.

Similarly, the proportion of families with children under 18 that were one parent families remained steady between 1997 and 2006-07, at around 20%, and the proportion of intact families with children under 18, also remained fairly stable at around 73%. The proportion of step and blended families was also level at 7% between 1997 and 2006-07.

Time spent with children

Raising children is a time consuming job. In 2006, parents spent 6.4 hours a day on primary and secondary child care activities, which included the physical and emotional care of children, teaching, helping and reprimanding children, playing, reading and talking, minding children and visiting child care establishments or schools. The largest component of this time was child minding (62%). Developmental activities such as playing with children took around one hour on average of a parent’s day.

Mothers spent more time on primary and secondary child care activities than fathers: 8.5 hours a day for mothers and about 3.9 hours a day for fathers. While mothers spent 16% of their child care time providing physical and emotional care, fathers spent 9% of their child care time on physical and emotional care.

When mothers work outside the home in paid employment, their contact time with children reduces. In 2006, mothers employed full time spent 56 minutes per day on the physical and emotional care of the children, compared with 1.8 hours for mothers who were not employed. These proportions were similar to those in 1997.

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