New Research on Domestic Violence Points to Parent Separation as Leading Indicator

Australia ( May 26, 2011

New Research on Domestic Violence Points to Parent Separation as Leading Indicator

New Research on Domestic Violence Points to Parent Separation as Leading Indicator

Attorney-General Robert McClelland today released new research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, which found inter-parental conflict, fear, abuse, or safety concerns remain prevalent for a significant number of parents following separation.

The reports – Parenting dynamics after separation and Views of adolescents in separated families – examined the behaviour and experiences of parents and adolescents from families that have separated since 2006.

Of more than 7,000 separated parents who participated in the Longitudinal Study of Separated Families (LSSF):

  • Around 60 per cent of parents reported a friendly or cooperative inter-parental relationship, while around one in five described it as highly conflictual or fearful;
  • Experiences of abuse were more likely to take the form of emotional abuse rather than physical hurt;
  • One in 5 parents reported that they had safety concerns for themselves or their child as a result of ongoing contact with the other parent;
  • Despite the intent of the 2006 reforms to protect children from exposure to violence or abuse, most parents who reported recent experiences of being harmed physically indicated that their children had witnessed violence or abuse.

Almost one in four parents experienced family violence before their separation and in many cases children had witnessed some of the abuse or violence.

“These reports demonstrate that family violence or the fear of family violence is still prevalent in the community,” Mr McClelland said.

“The Government has introduced the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill to create a safer and fairer family law system and prioritise the safety of children.

“The new definitions of violence and abuse are intended to help people within the system understand and recognise family violence and child abuse, and encourage them to act.

“Importantly, it removes previous disincentives for people to bring forward evidence of family violence and child abuse.

“The Bill continues to promote a child’s right to a meaningful relationship with both parents, but with one key difference – it emphasises that the child’s safety must come first in situations where there is conflict.

“The Government continues to support shared care but only where this is safe for the child.

“These improvements need to happen and will significantly improve the law to ensure the safety of children in the family law system.

The Family Violence Bill is due to be debated in the House of Representatives this week.

The Bill responds to reports received by the Government into the family law system and the way the family law system responds to family violence from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Professor Richard Chisholm AM and the Family Law Council.

“The reports released today add to this important body of work and I would like to thank the Australian Institute of Family Studies for undertaking this research,” Mr McClelland said.

Copies of the reports are available on the Attorney-General’s Department website.

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