4533.0 - Directory of Family and Domestic Violence Statistics, 2011  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 22/11/2011   
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Contents >> Longitudinal Study of Separated Families, Australia (LSSF)



Geographic CoverageFrequencyData Availability
New South Wales
Western Australia
South Australia
Northern Territory
ASGC Remoteness
More than annual
2-4 yearly
Less than 5 yearly
Once only
Ad hoc
Detailed publication / report publicly available
Data cubes / spreadsheets publicly available
Agency annual report
Customised data - free upon request1
Customised data - charged consultancy1
Not published - may be available on request1
Not publicly available
[1] May be subject to release conditions



Data custodian: Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS)

Contact: General Manager (Research)

Address: Level 20, South Tower, 485 La Trobe St, Melbourne, VIC, 3000

Telephone: 03 9214 7888

Facsimile: 03 9214 7839

Email: http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/contact.php

Internet: http://www.aifs.gov.au




The study aimed to provide a picture of the separation experience of parents across broad range of family arrangements and to contribute to understanding the long-term effects of family law policy.


“Family Pathways: The Longitudinal Study of Separated Families” (LSSF) explores questions about separation and caring for children when a relationship ends. This information provides a picture of what life is like for separated parents across a broad range of family arrangements, from shared care through to one parent never seeing their child. The study is helping to improve understanding of the early and longer term effects of family law policy. Findings from Wave 1 of this study contributed strongly to the AIFS’ evaluation of the 2006 family law reforms.

Collection Type


Family and Domestic Violence related content (data items collected)

Data Item
Secondary victim
Indigenous Status
Country of Birth
Language spoken

Tenure type
Personal data items
Services used / referrals to services


Health factors
alcohol use / substance use
mental illness

FDV-related perceptions
satisfaction with police response
seriousness/ regarded as criminal
whether problem in neighbourhood
feelings of safety / fear
Prior history of victimisation / offending
Known outcomes
application for violence order
violence order issued
offender charged
offender went to court
offender found guilty
offender sentence type
child protection involvement
time off work / economic costs
medical treatment received / type
changed routine
Other personal data items
1 Respondent may or may not have experienced FDV.
2 Refers to whether these health factors were considered prior to separation and does not specify which parent had the issues.

Data Item
school/place of education/institution
public place
Relationship between parties
married/de facto spouse
current / former partner/boyfriend/girlfriend
other member of household
other relatives
relationships of personal or financial dependency

Weapon use
type of weapon
Alcohol involved
Substance use involved

Physical injury sustained
type of injury
Reported to police
reasons for not reporting

The full instrument is available at: http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/fle/appendixc.pdf

Definition of Family and Domestic Violence

The LSSF uses a broad definition of FDV, incorporating both the Family Law Act (section 4) and the Screening and Assessment Framework Guidelines for Family Dispute Resolution as these provide the context for family separation experiences being assessed by the LSSF.

The Family Law Act (Section 4) defines family violence as:
“conduct, whether actual or threatened, by a person towards, or towards the property of, a member of the person's family that causes that or any other member of the person's family reasonably to fear for, or reasonably to be apprehensive about, his or her personal well-being or safety.”

The Screening and Assessment Guidelines refer to the Partnerships Against Domestic Violence (1997) definition, which is:
“ …an abuse of power perpetrated mainly (but not only) by men against women both in a relationship and after separation. It occurs when one partner attempts to physically or psychologically dominate or control the other. Domestic violence takes a number of forms. The most commonly acknowledged forms are physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional and social abuse and economic deprivation.” (AGD 2006, p. 27)

To establish whether FDV was a factor in their separation experience, respondents were asked a series of questions about their partner’s behaviour:

      At any time before or during the separation, did (focus parent) ever:
      (1) try to prevent you from contacting family or friends;
      (2) try to prevent you from using the telephone or car;
      (3) try to prevent knowledge of or access to family money;
      (4) insult you with the intent to shame, belittle or humiliate;
      (5) threaten to harm the (child/children);
      (6) threaten to harm other family/friends;
      (7) threaten to harm you;
      (8) damage or destroy property;
      (9) threaten to harm or pets;
      (10) threaten to harm themselves.

      Before you separated: were you ever physically hurt by (focus parent) in any way?
Aspects of FDV captured by the data are:
  • Physical abuse
  • Psychological /emotional abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Economic abuse
  • Social abuse
  • Property damage

Relationship to Conceptual Framework for Family and Domestic Violence (Cat. No. 4529.0)

Conceptual Framework Element / Sub-element
Amount of Information Available
Environmental Factors
Individual pyscho-social factors
Community prevalence
Community incidence
Understandings and acknowledgments of risk and safety
Informal responses
Formal system responses
Programs, Research & Evaluation

Collection methodology

The Longitudinal Study of Separated Families is a national study of some 10,000 parents (with at least one child under 18 years old) who separated after the introduction of the reforms in July 2006. The study involves the collection of data from the same group of parents over time.

A random sample was used to select respondents from Child Support Agency clients and surveys were conducted by telephone interview.

Where the separated couple had more than one child together who was under 18 years at the time of the survey, most of the child-related questions that were asked focused on only one of these children (called the “focus child”).

The first wave of the LSSF 2008 took place between August and October 2008, up to 26 months after the time of parental separation. The final overall response rate for LSSF W1 2008 was 60.2%. An equal gender split was achieved. The majority of participants were aged between 25 and 44 years (74%) and were born in Australia (83%).

A second wave of 7,031 re-interviews was conducted between September and November 2009. In addition, adolescent children of parents participating in the LSSF were also surveyed following Wave 2. This adolescent survey obtained information about their experiences and opinions relating to parental separation. The second wave of data from the LSSF and the adolescent survey data will be used in a subsequent report to be undertaken in 2010.

Information collected as part of this study will contribute to understanding the long-term effects of family law policy and will provide a picture of what life is like over time for separated parents across a broad range of family arrangements, from shared care through to less frequent contact.

Scope / target population

Parents, 18 years or over, who met the following criteria:
    • separated after 1 July 2006,
    • registered with the Child Support Agency (CSA) in 2007,
    • had at least one child under age 18 years.


Geographic coverage and disaggregation


Data available for:

Frequency / Timing


Collection history

Collection commenced: 2008

Breaks in series: no

Other details: The questions on family violence were also asked in the survey Looking Back Survey conducted in 2009. This survey interviewed 2000 separated parents who registered with the CSA in 2005 and separated before 1 July 2006. The questions on family violence and other questions asked in this survey were similar to the LSSF.

The emotional abuse questions were modified based on some questions asked in the ABS Personal Safety Survey.

Data availability / Dissemination

Data are not routinely available, however research analysis reports are published and contributed to the Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms.

A subsequent Research Report (to be submitted to the AGD in 2010-11) will outline findings from both Waves 1 and 2. It will highlight, among other issues, the extent to which parenting arrangements, relationships between parents, and parents' views of their child's wellbeing have changed; family law system pathways adopted in finalising or changing arrangements after Wave 1; and factors linked with any changes in arrangements, relationships and apparent wellbeing.

Other data sources held by this agency

Australian Temperament Project (ATP)
Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms Legislation and Courts Project, Australia
Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC)
Survey of Family Relationship Service Clients, 2009

Has this data source changed?
Contact the ABS to report updates or corrections to the information above.

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