Finding new ways to support separated families and keep parents and children connected, including an Australian-first look at Indigenous fatherhood, is the focus of upcoming research at the University of Newcastle's Family Action Centre.
To be undertaken in the regional centres of Gosford, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo and Taree, the four research projects will each investigate different circumstances surrounding separated families.
Chief Investigator Richard Fletcher said the projects were a joint undertaking with Interrelate Family Centres.
"We know that children often suffer when families split up even though both parents try to protect them from the effects of conflict and separation," Mr Fletcher said.
"This research will help design better support methods so that children, especially pre-school age children, can avoid unnecessary stress, grow in confidence and enjoy their childhood."
The Gosford project will survey parents who commute long distances to work to identify their strategies for staying connected with their pre-school children. In Coffs Harbour, the project will examine how child development information can assist separated parents to better manage the effects of separation on young children.
A community-based project in Dubbo will examine the role of Aboriginal fathers. The activities that grandparents and young parents use to stay in touch with children who live far away will be the focus of the Taree-based project.
"All of the research includes a prevention focus. Commuters separated from their families due to work commitments may have strategies to make strong links in limited time that can help other parents avoid family tensions," Mr Fletcher said.
"If we can discover how grandparents stay connected with grandchildren who live far away, this information may help others trying to maintain family ties.
"The investigation of how Aboriginal men view their roles is a first for Australia. It will build on the highly successful Strengths of Indigenous Fathers project in Newcastle which articulated the views of young Aboriginal fathers."
The research projects are funded by the Australian Government as part of the latest round of Family Relationship Centres.
These research grants bring to six the number of projects being undertaken by the Family Action Centre through Family Relationship Centres.