Tuesday 4 March 2014

Comparative charts on family make-up, dynamics and policies for the OECD (including Australia)

Here is a link to an interesting site that provides comparative figures from OECD countries (including Australia) on family make-up, dynamics and policies.


Among the charts on the site is one that compares OECD country payments and services to families.


Australia is high on cash payments and low on services.

In order to access these sites you can hold the mouse over the link and press control - if this doesn't work you can highlight the link press control c (copy) and then put the mouse on the address site (at the top) and press control v (paste).

Monday 3 March 2014

Mothers and the Transition to Parenthood

The early years for infants and children are widely recognised as critical for brain development. An important contributing factor to the wellbeing of these infants and children is necessarily the health and their mums and their dads. How can we talk about children without reference to these wider support networks? We can't, as a society, provide for those all important social connections that are a necessary part of the developing kin relationships. If we are to take those early years seriously we need to support these young families. These are significant social and cultural events that have been highly medicalized.

The National Women's Health Policy 2010 emphasised the importance of recognising the 'social determinants of health' and particularly in this period of changing gendered roles we need to recognise and respond to how this is being played out within families. 

A major European study drawing from both quantitative and qualitative findings from eight countries on work–family boundaries concluded that:

 ‘gender shapes parenthood and makes motherhood different from fatherhood both in everyday family life and in workplaces (Lewis and Smithson 2006, 13). 

This is a finding that is echoed in the assertion by McHale et al. (2004, 725) that:

‘mothers, but not fathers, see themselves as ultimately responsible for child care’. 

The ‘transition to parenthood’ was identified by Lewis and Smithson as critical in attempts to achieve gender equal outcomes. A claim substantiated by Australian research by Baxter, Hewitt and Haynes (2008) in relation to the development of a gender wage gap, labelled ‘the motherhood wage penalty’; another proposition that is substantiated by multiple studies. 

Throughout the twentieth century the Maternal and Child Health Services have been primarily concerned with infant and child health and this remains the case today. There are moves to change the name to Child and Family Health. Yet, I ask, how can infants and children prosper if their mothers and fathers are struggling? An international body of research on the Transition to Parenthood finds high levels of depression, high levels of marital dissatisfaction and there are legendary issues related to identity for women as new mothers today. 

In 2010 the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare stated that - 1 in 5 - or 20% of mothers with children aged 24 months or less have been diagnosed with depression. More than half of these mothers reported that their depression was perinatal (that is, the depression was diagnosed from pregnancy until the child's first birthday), and the rate of anxiety went much higher. 

The response in Australia to Perinatal Depression has been highly medicalized while the literature on depression most often emphasises the critical role of partner support in the early years after the birth. The related health services are patchy with an emphasis on the health and wellbeing of infants and children. The Post and Antenatal Depression agency in Victoria (among others) needs to fund raise so as to maintain and expand their services see: http: www.panda.org.au 

A comparison of government spending on the family of OECD countries shows that Australia is high on the list for cash payments while close to 30th for spending on family support. This was a trend that the speaker to the report suggested that we change. You can see comparative OECD data at: 

These are issues and topics that I will pursue through this blog. 

AIHW, 2010, Perinatal depression Data from the 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey, Information Paper. AIHW, Canberra

Aust. Gov., Dept., Health and Ageing, 2010, National Women's Health Policy 2010, Canberra 

Lewis Suzan, and Janet Smithson. 2006. Gender parenthood and the changing European workplace: Young adults negotiating the work-family boundary TRANSITIONS Final Report. European Commission.  U.K. (available online)                                  

McHale, J P, C Kazali, T Rotman, J Talbot, M Carleton, and R Lieberson. 2004. The transition to co-parenthood: parents' prebirth expectations and early co-parental adjustment at 3 months postpartum. Development and Psychopathology 16:711-733.