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When a Non-resident Worker is a Non-resident Parent: Investigating the Family Impact of Fly-In, Fly-Out Work Practices in Australia

Abstract

Non-resident work practices, which involve prolonged separations from family, long-distance commuting between home and remote work sites and long work hours across compressed rosters, are now commonplace in Australia. This study examined the impact of these work arrangements, often termed Fly-In/Fly-Out (FIFO), on children and families, and to identify family-related and employment-related factors that influence child and family outcomes. Anonymous online surveys containing measures of family and couple relationship quality, child behavioral and emotional adjustment, parenting and personal adjustment were completed by 232 partners of FIFO workers, 46 FIFO workers, and a comparison group of community parents (N = 294 mothers, N = 36 fathers). There were no differences between FIFO partners and community parents on family or couple relationship quality, parenting competence and child behavioral or emotional difficulties. FIFO partners reported higher levels of personal emotional problems and greater usage of harsh discipline practices than community mothers, while FIFO workers reported greater work to family conflict and alcohol use than community fathers. Regression analyses on the FIFO partners sample indicated that child and family functioning were best predicted by family factors, including harsh parenting and parental emotional adjustment. Implications of the findings for the design and provision of family-based support for FIFO families are discussed.

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Acknowledgments

This research was conducted with support from the University of Queensland Early Career Researcher Fund. We would like to acknowledge the parents who gave their time to participate in this research.

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Correspondence to Cassandra K. Dittman.

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Disclosure

This research was conducted with funding support from the Early Career Researcher Award received by the first author from their University. The Triple P—Positive Parenting Program is owned by The University of Queensland. The University, through its technology transfer company Uniquest Pty Ltd, has licensed Triple P International Pty Ltd to disseminate the program worldwide. Royalties stemming from this dissemination work are paid to UniQuest, which distributes payments to the University of Queensland Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Psychology, Parenting and Family Support Centre, and contributory authors in accordance with the University’s intellectual property policy. No author has any share or ownership in Triple P International. The first author is employed by the University of Queensland in the Parenting and Family Support Centre and is a Triple P trainer, while the second and third authors were postgraduate research students in the Parenting and Family Support Centre.

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The research reported within this manuscript was undertaken in a manner consistent with the Ethical Principles of Psychologists for conducting research with human participants. Ethical approval was obtained from the authors’ University Human Research Ethics committee.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants before commencing the anonymous survey.

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Dittman, C.K., Henriquez, A. & Roxburgh, N. When a Non-resident Worker is a Non-resident Parent: Investigating the Family Impact of Fly-In, Fly-Out Work Practices in Australia. J Child Fam Stud 25, 2778–2796 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-016-0437-2

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Keywords

  • Child behavior problems
  • Child emotional difficulties
  • Parenting
  • Family functioning
  • Non-resident work practices