Communication technology use by separated parents: A recent snapshot

Stream: Relationships, parenting and wellbeing
Date: Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Time: 10.45 am – 12.25 pm


Family structure -- including the divorce transition -- has attracted little attention in the area of technologically mediated communication. Can digital technology facilitate respectful, child-focused communication and reduce interparental conflict after parental separation? In this presentation we (a) investigate the use and experience of different modes of communication by separated parents in Australia; (b) explore the extent to which certain forms of communication (including smartphone apps) are related to the interparental conflict; and (c) map changes in patterns of communication for individual separated families. Qualitative data from a non-probability purposive sample of 107 separated parents are examined. We found that although email and SMS were the most common modes of communication used by separated parents, there appeared to be close but complex links between the level of interparental conflict and parents’ patterns of communication. Shifts in parents’ communication preferences further illuminated the complexity of these links. Parents’ reports suggest that different modes of communication can both help or hinder post-separation parenting, depending on the quality of the co-parental relationship. Implications for practitioners and policymakers are briefly discussed.


Bruce Smyth (Presenter), Australian National University
Bruce is Professor of Family Studies with the ANU Centre of Social Research & Methods, ANU. He was awarded an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (2012-2016) to investigate the high conflict post-divorce shared-time familiy. In June 2018, he received the Stanley Cohen Distinguished Research Award from the American Association of Family & Conciliation Courts (AFCC) in recognition of outstanding research and research achievements in the field of family and divorce. He has published widely in the area of family law, especially on post-separation patterns of parenting.

Giverney Ainscough (Presenter), Australian National University
Giverney Ainscough is a doctoral candidate (Sociology) in the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, Australian National University. Her research interests are primarily in the area of disability and chronic illness integration into university. She has extensive expertise with qualitative research methods. Her Master of Social Research (Advanced) thesis ‘Supporting students with Education Access Plans: Lecturer Perspectives’ highlighted the complex, evolving process for integration. In addition to her doctoral work, Giverney is Editorial Assistant for the Australian Journal of Social Issues; Administrator for the Transnational Research Institute on Corruption; and has worked as an academic tutor and research assistant.