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January 2024 Research Review

Research Review - monthly updates on the latest research on children, young people and families in Australia

The Research Review delivers the latest research relevant to the child and family services sector direct to your inbox.   In this month’s Research Review, we include two reports which cast light on interconnecting challenges affecting many children and families in Australia and globally – the complex relationship between fathers’ mental ill-health and child maltreatment and the intersection between socio-economic disadvantage and health outcomes. Other research papers focus on mental health, family violence, child wellbeing and much more.

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Children and Young People’s Wellbeing

Fathers’ mental ill-health and child maltreatment: A systematic review of the literature 

This report critically examines the link between fathers’ mental health and child maltreatment. It highlights the complexities and inconsistencies in research methodologies and definitions of child abuse and emphasises the need for a more focused study on fathers, an often-overlooked area in child welfare research. The review aims to clarify the relationship between fathers’ mental health issues and various forms of child maltreatment, offering policy and practice insights.

Read the full report here


Latin American children in Ontario child welfare: An examination of investigation disparities 

This Canadian research study highlights the disproportionate involvement of Latin American children in Ontario’s child welfare system, revealing they are more than twice as likely to be investigated as white children. Data from the Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect 2018 show these investigations often involve family violence and are more likely to be police-initiated, despite less frequent concerns about child or caregiver risks. The findings highlight the need to adapt child welfare policies and practices to better address the specific needs of the diverse communities in Canada and globally.

Read the full report here

Police responses to intimate partner violence incidents involving children 

There is limited research into interventions in Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) cases involving children, who have often been characterised as ‘invisible victims’. This study examines how officers’ perception of IPV severity and the presence of children influence the likelihood of taking action when responding to family violence related incidence. The authors suggest that comprehensive training is needed which helps balance standardised procedures and the unique contexts of IPV incidents involving children.

Read the full report here.

A rapid evidence assessment of barriers and strategies in service engagement when working with young people with complex needs 

This Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) focuses on improving service delivery for young people with complex needs, who often require support from multiple agencies and organisations. The authors reviewed 18 papers and identified key barriers to service provision and strategies for effective service engagement. Findings highlight individual and systemic challenges, including the need for services to adapt to young people’s needs. Effective strategies include relational and empowerment approaches at the practitioner level, and systemic changes such as flexible services and improved resources. The study highlights the importance of creating youth-centric service environments.

Read the full report here

Relational security: Balancing care and control in a youth justice detention setting in Australia 

This report conducted by the University of Melbourne highlights the importance of interpersonal relationships and a supportive social environment in youth justice custodial settings. It explores the concept of ‘group climate,’ emphasising how open, therapeutic environments positively impact young people’s treatment outcomes compared to closed, punitive settings. The study reveals the significance of ‘relational security’ in managing and de-escalating incidents, focusing on constructive staff and young people relationships. Findings suggest that fostering such environments in youth justice facilities can balance care and control needs, with calls for further research in more traditional, restrictive settings.

Read the full report here

Prospects for children: Cooperation in a fragmented world 

The 2024 UNICEF Global Outlook report emphasises the impact of growing geopolitical and geoeconomic separation on children’s wellbeing. It highlights challenges such as the increased risk of conflict, economic instability, and threats to democracy. Despite these challenges, it also identifies opportunities for improvement through global cooperation, stressing the need for political accountability, reforms around fiscal policy, and digital collaboration. The report presents four scenarios to 2050: children’s futures hinge on the choices made today, with the best outcomes arising from high levels of international cooperation and technological progress. The report highlights the importance of prioritising children’s needs in global decision-making, including the role of collective action in shaping a sustainable and equitable future for all.

Read the full report here

Extreme heat affects early childhood development and health 

This working paper from the Early Childhood Scientific Council on Equity and the Environment examines the impact of rising global temperatures and extreme heat on young children. Acknowledging 2023 as the hottest year on record, the paper explores how excessive heat affects children’s biological systems and development, including from systemic issues such as poor air quality and limited access to nutritious food. The accompanying Action Guide for Policy presents promising, community-informed solutions and outlines implications for new policy directions, focusing on areas such as learning, sleep quality, and mental health during pregnancy and early childhood.

Read the full paper here


Family and Community

Health inequalities: Lives cut short  

The Institute of Health Equity highlights a critical issue in England in relation to health inequities. Based on Office for National Statistics data, this study by the Institute of Health Equity found that there were nearly 11,000 more excess deaths in the most deprived 80 percent of areas in 2020, compared with the least deprived 20 percent of areas. The study separately identifies how much of the excess in 2020 was associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and how much was due to the pre-existing trend in health inequalities and concludes that over 13,000 deaths in 2020 were associated with the pre-existing trend in mortality due to inequality.

Read the full report here

Disconnected and insecure: The intersection between experiences of long COVID and intimate partner violence 

This Monash University study examines the unexplored intersection between long COVID and intimate partner violence (IPV), an issue critical to public health and women’s safety yet globally under-researched. Focusing on Australia with international relevance, the authors use a national online survey to explore how long COVID diagnosis alters the experiences and needs of IPV victim survivors. The study investigates changes in the nature of violence, abuse patterns, and the impact on help-seeking behaviours. By centring the voices of victim survivors, the report highlights the specific safety and support needs of individuals with long COVID, urging a re-evaluation of policies and practices to address these unique challenges.

Read the full report here

Revitalising Australia’s commitment to human rights 

The final report of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s five-year inquiry into Australia’s national protections for human rights and anti-discrimination proposes a reimagined National Human Rights Framework to modernise and strengthen human rights protections in Australia. Focusing on structural reforms rather than legislative changes, the report recommends the introduction of a National Human Rights Act complemented by a supportive framework for better governance, awareness, and accountability in human rights issues. This comprehensive report, based on extensive research and consultations, represents a significant step in redefining Australia’s approach to human rights to ensure it is fit for the 21st century.

Read the full report here

Distress amplification: Robodebt notices and the intensification of distress in the unemployed 

This report by Per Capita, an independent policy think tank, presents the first empirical assessment of the emotional and social impact of the Robodebt system on recipients of debt notices. The study examines the emotional responses of individuals receiving Robodebt notices, particularly among unemployed recipients. The study found that unemployed individuals displayed more extreme negative reactions due to their existing interactions with the welfare system and the unexpected nature of the debt notices. This report offers critical insights into the challenges and emotional toll of the Robodebt process on affected individuals, and urges policymakers, technologists, and legal experts to collaborate in designing systems that ensure fair and equitable outcomes.

Read the full report here

Public attitudes towards coercive control: Evidence from a nationally representative population survey 

This research conducted by the Australian National University (ANU) addresses the growing issue of coercive control in the context of intimate partner homicide in Australia, focusing on public awareness and the criminalisation of such forms of abuse. Analysing survey data from a nationally representative sample of 3,510 people, the authors reveal that while over half of the respondents are familiar with the term ‘coercive control,’ there are significant variations in understanding and attitudes across different community groups, including among young people, men, and people from CALD backgrounds. These findings highlight the need for targeted educational campaigns to increase awareness about coercive control.

Read the full report here



Effectively managing classrooms to create safe and supportive learning environments: Discussion paper 

This paper conducted by the Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO) evaluates current classroom management resources, focusing on preparing Australian teachers to foster safe and supportive learning environments for all students. The paper highlights effective strategies for engaging students and managing challenging behaviours, particularly in relation to students from diverse backgrounds, including those with cognitive, language, or neurodivergent challenges.

Read the full paper here

Australian framework for Generative Artificial Intelligence in schools 

The Australian Framework for Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Schools, established by the National AI in Schools Taskforce, provides national guidance for the responsible and ethical use of generative AI in educational settings. It targets a broad audience including policymakers, educators, parents and students, focusing specifically on the ability of generative AI to enhance school outcomes. The Framework outlines principles and guiding statements to ensure safe and ethical use of generative AI.

Read the framework here

Fixing the hole in Australian education: The Australian curriculum benchmarked against the best 

Learning First’s benchmarking study, comparing the Australian science curriculum against seven high-performing international systems, reveals significant shortcomings in Australia’s approach. The analysis shows that in the first nine years of schooling, the Australian curriculum contains roughly half the science content of other systems, covers fewer topics (44 compared to an average of 74), and lacks depth. This report, focused solely on the science curriculum, raises concerns about the overall quality of the Australian curriculum. It suggests that if similar comprehensive benchmarking, research, and analysis have not been applied to other subjects, a complete overhaul of the Australian curriculum might be necessary.

Read the full report here


Audits, Inquiries and Investigations

ACCC Childcare inquiry: Final report 

The ACCC’s inquiry into Australia’s childcare markets concludes that current regulatory settings are not fully achieving accessibility and affordability goals. The report, informed by detailed data analysis and stakeholder feedback, includes eight recommendations. It observes improvements in childcare affordability following the July 2023 Cheaper Child Care reforms, particularly for low-income households. However, these benefits were undermined by rising fees, leading the ACCC to recommend that government intervenes through market stewardship and supply-side subsidies to help enable the reform’s policy objectives to be met.

Read the full report here

Report of the Inquiry into the rights of women and children 

The Human Rights Subcommittee’s report highlights the increasing challenges faced by women and children globally, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and political instability. Despite ongoing efforts, these groups continue to suffer from heightened violence, exploitation, and abuse. The report includes 10 recommendations focusing on issues such as gender-based violence and proposes a child-specific international strategy, reflecting contributions from various organisations and witnesses. The report stresses the urgent need for collective action to protect the rights of women and children worldwide.

Read the full report here

Joint standing committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme: NDIS participant experience in rural, regional and remote Australia 

The Centre is currently collating a submission for the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, focusing on the experiences of regional and rural NDIS participants and providers. We welcome any input from the sector to inform our response. If you would like to contribute some content for this submission please send direct to

Read the Terms of Reference here


Sector Activity

How to support positive peer relationships among young people in online spaces 

The Australian Institute of Family Studies, as part of its suite of evidence and resources for the child and family services sector, is hosting a webinar on February 21, from 1:00pm to 2:00pm AEDT, aimed at supporting positive online peer relationships among young people. This session will cover the dynamics of online and offline interactions, the benefits and challenges of online relationships for youth, their impact on mental health, and how families can encourage these positive connections.

Find out more here

World Carer Day 

Children and young people are strong, resilient, and more than simply their care experience. The theme of the 2024 Care Day is to celebrate all young people’s rights, their stories and their achievements.

Organisations and communities across Australia and the world are being asked to listen to children and young people, look beyond the surface, and see that every care-experienced child and young person is an individual with their own unique story, ambitions and dreams for the future.

World Care Day is on Friday February 16, 2024.

Find an event near you here

Economic and policy outlook: Insights to help you navigate 2024 

CEDA’s annual Economic and Policy Outlook (EPO) is a forum for industry and government leaders, analysing the dynamics at play in the Australian market for the year ahead.

Join CEDA to work through the complexity of the issues and understand different perspectives. Talk directly with experts and decision-makers and contribute your own ideas through respectful, frank debate.

Find out more and register here


The Research Reviews are sponsored by OPEN (Outcomes, Practice and Evidence Network). OPEN supports Victoria’s child, youth and family services to use evidence from research, practice and client experience to deliver better outcomes for children, young people and families. To tap into all that OPEN has to offer become a member – it’s free!

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