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- Judgements as social narrative : an empirical investigation of appeal judgements in closely contested parenting disputes in the Family Court of Australia 1988-1999
- Moloney, Lawrence.
- La Trobe University. Institute for Education.
- Construction of parenting
- Construction of childhood
- Family -- Australia
- Custody of children -- Australia -- Case studies.
- Family law -- Social aspects -- Australia.
- Divorce -- Social aspects -- Australia.
- La Trobe University.
- Thesis (Ph.D.) - La Trobe University, 2002.
- Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Institute for Education, La Trobe University, Bundoora
- Abstract: The thesis is divided into two sections. Section 1 explores the psycho-social and legal constructions of family, parenting and children that have influenced judicial decision-making in parenting disputes following separation and divorce. Particular attention is paid, first, to the circumstances surrounding the shift from paternal to maternally-based presumptions about the parenting of children; and second, to the more recent and somewhat puzzling shift to a presumption of gender neutrality. The extent to which fault has continued as a less overt decision-making criterion is also considered. In Section 2, judgements in recent closely contested parenting cases in the Family Court of Australia are analysed as contemporary socio-legal narratives. A systematic, in-depth examination of a heterogeneous sample of publicly accessible cases revealed that gender-based assumptions continue to dominate judicial thinking about parenting and family structure. In particular, it was found that outcomes that favoured mothers correlated with perceived evidence of conformity to a maternal stereotype of self-sacrifice on behalf of the child(ren). Outcomes favouring fathers usually resulted from situations in which mothers were judged to fall short of these stereotyped expectations. Fathers' roles, even in cases in which their applications were successful, generally continued to be equated with breadwinning and support. Their capacities as nurturers to their children were either not mentioned or treated with scepticism. In the light of the findings, tensions between continuing gender-based roles in families, public attitudes to parenting and preferred family structure, and recent changes in our scientific knowledge base regarding gender and parenting are reviewed. Implications of the persistence of the breadwinning/nurturing dichotomy both within the Australian culture and family court judgements are discussed. Particular attention is drawn to the impact of the confused circumstances in which gender-neutral parenting principles came about in the 1970s.
- The thesis author retains all proprietary rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over the content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis.