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Violence against women and their children affects everybody. It impacts on the health, wellbeing and safety of a significant proportion of Australians throughout all states and territories and places an enormous burden on the nation’s economy across family and community services, health and hospitals, income-support and criminal justice systems.

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ANROWS was established by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments of Australia to produce, disseminate and assist in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children.

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EXTERNALLY FUNDED RESEARCH PROJECTS

Mothers’ perceptions of communication and collaboration with their children’s teachers about their separation and divorce

Background

Separation and divorce has become a common phenomenon in Australia and affects a substantial proportion of children. While there is much research about parental stress factors and the effects on children, there is a paucity of research focusing on the nexus with education and how teachers work with these children and their families. Teachers see these children for a greater proportion of time each day than any adult other than children’s parents. Therefore, teachers and schools are in a strategic position to promote children's wellbeing and learning. However, teachers have reported that they often are not informed of a particular child's family circumstances and they have to acquire this knowledge largely through informal means.

Aim

The aim of this research is to identify the perceptions of mothers with regard to communication with their children's teachers about sensitive issues such as their separation and divorce. Strategies for teachers and families to work together to support young children experiencing separation and divorce may be identified.

Methods

Eleven mothers who were purposefully selected participated in the study. This research aims to gain an understanding of mothers’ experiences of communication and collaboration with their children’s teachers. Therefore, participants were mothers who separated or divorced when their children were aged between 3 and 12 years.

Participants undertook a semi-structured interview with the researcher. Interviews lasted between 20 and 40 minutes and were conducted either face to face, by telephone or via Zoom. A detailed information sheet was provided and consent obtained before the interview commenced. Mothers were informed that they could withdraw their consent and participation in the study at any point of the project. They were asked about their experience with their children’s teachers with regard to their separation and divorce – what they would like their children’s teachers to know, what they think their children’s teachers needed to know, and what they would have liked the teachers to do more or less of or avoid doing.

Significance

This study investigates mothers’ perceptions of communication and collaboration with teachers regarding their separation and divorce. These insights will be important to inform schools' and early childhood services’ culture, as well as policy that focuses on families experiencing parental separation and divorce and encourages and supports partnerships between families and teachers facilitating open communication, shared responsibility, collaboration, mutual respect and support. Teachers and families need to understand and influence each other to benefit children. A culture that implies an attitude of shared responsibility and a willingness to collaborate in a context of mutual respect and support where all players are working towards the benefit of the children is suggested.

Project start date

December 2019

Expected completion date

December 2020
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