Social Work and Social Planning

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    Measuring Relationship Quality in an International Study: Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Validity
    (Sage Journals, 2016-04-03) Chonody, Jill M; Gabb, Jacqui; Killian, Mike; Dunk-West, Priscilla
    Objective: This study reports on the operationalization and testing of the newly developed Relationship Quality (RQ) scale, designed to assess an individual’s perception of his or her RQ in their current partnership. Methods: Data were generated through extended sampling from an original U.K.-based research project, Enduring Love? Couple relationships in the 21st century. This mixed methods study was designed to investigate how couples experience, understand, and sustain their long-term relationships. This article utilizes the cross-sectional, community sample (N = 8,132) from this combined data set, drawn primarily from the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia. A two-part approach to scale development was employed. An initial 15-item pool was subjected to exploratory factor analysis leading into confirmatory factor analysis using structural equation modeling. Results: The final 9-item scale evidenced convergent construct validity and known-groups validity along with strong reliability. Conclusion: Implications for future research and professional practice are discussed.
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    Hegemonic Masculinities and Heteronormativities in Contemporary Books on Fathering and Raising Boys
    (Berghahn Books, 2015-03-01) Hunter, Sarah C; Riggs, Damien Wayne
    Books published on fathering and raising boys are becoming increasingly popular. These books claim simply to describe boys and fathers. However we suggest that they make only specific identities available. We make this suggestion on the basis of a critical analysis of six books published since an initial study by Riggs (2008). In this article we extend Riggs’s analysis by identifying how the books analyzed draw upon hegemonic masculine ideals in constructing boys’ and fathers’ identities. The analysis also suggests that biological essentialism is used to justify the identities constructed. Five specific implications are drawn from the findings, focusing on understandings of males as well as females, the uptake of dominant modes of talking about males, and the ramifications of biological essentialism. The findings emphasize the need to pay ongoing attention to popular parenting books since, rather than offering improved strategies for raising boys, these books present assertions of what boys and fathers should be.
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    Family support and discrimination and their relationship to psychological distress and resilience amongst transgender people
    (Taylor & Francis Group, 2018-11-22) Fuller, Kimberly A; Riggs, Damien Wayne
    Background: Given the broader social contexts in which transgender people and their families live, the latter can be either an important source of support, or bring with them yet another source of discrimination. Although historically transgender people almost uniformly experienced discrimination from families of origin, recent research suggests that growing numbers of transgender people are supported by their families. Aims: The study reported in this article sought to examine the relationships between family support and discrimination, and psychological distress and resilience. Methods: A convenience sample of 345 transgender people living in North America completed an online questionnaire constructed by the authors. The questionnaire included demographic questions and single items questions about emotional closeness to family, gender-related support from family, and discrimination from family. The questionnaire also included standardized measures of gender-related discrimination, resiliency, social support, and psychological distress. Results: Participants reported moderate levels of gender-related family support, with non-binary participants reporting the lowest levels of gender-related family support. Participants whose families provided greater gender-related support reported greater resilience and lower levels of psychological distress; however participants who reported higher levels of gender-related discrimination from their families reported greater psychological distress. The findings suggest that emotional closeness to family may help mitigate the effects of general discrimination on psychological distress. Discussion: Drawing on the findings reported, the paper concludes by discussing the importance of focusing on family members in the context of affirming clinical approaches to working with transgender adults.
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    People of Diverse Genders and/or Sexualities and Their Animal Companions: Experiences of Family Violence in a Binational Sample.
    (Sage Journals, 2018-11-09) Riggs, Damien Wayne; Taylor, Nicola; Signal, Tania; Fraser, Heather Merle; Donovan, Catherine
    A significant body of research in the field of human-animal studies has focused on animals who live alongside humans within the home, with such animals often considered family members. To date, however, this research has focused almost exclusively on the experiences of heterosexual cisgender people, overlooking other diverse genders and/or sexualities. This paper seeks to address this gap by reporting on findings from a study of 503 people living in Australia or the United Kingdom. Specifically, the research sought to explore links between psychological distress, social support, family violence, and views about animal companions. Notable amongst the findings was an interaction between having experienced familial violence and living with an animal companion, and the impact of both on psychological distress and social support. The paper concludes by considering the implications of the findings for better understanding the lives of people of diverse genders and/or sexualities.
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    Hegemonic masculinity vs. a caring masculinity: Implications for understanding primary caregiving fathers
    (Wiley, 2017-03-08) Hunter, Sarah C; Riggs, Damien Wayne; Augoustinos, Martha
    Recently, there has been a growing interest in what is positioned as a new form of masculinity arising from the increase in fathers as primary caregivers. This new form is referred to as a “caring masculinity” and is theorised as a radical shift away from traditional or hegemonic forms of masculinity. This paper critically examines the fathering literature, focusing specifically on how primary caregiving fathers navigate social norms with regard to masculinity. The paper concludes that there is a complex interplay between expectations of a traditional, provider father and a new and involved father. It is argued that ideas surrounding a caring masculinity are better understood as a broadening of hegemonic masculinity, rather than an entirely new or distinct form.
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    Decompensation: A Novel Approach to Accounting for Stress Arising from the Effects of Ideology and Social Norms
    (Taylor & Francis, 2016-05-26) Riggs, Damien Wayne; Treharne, Gareth J
    To date, research that has drawn on Meyer’s (2003) minority stress model has largely taken for granted the premises underpinning it. In this article we provide a close reading of how “stress” is conceptualized in the model and suggest that aspects of the model do not attend to the institutionalized nature of stressors experienced by people with marginalized identities, particularly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. As a counter to this, we highlight the importance of a focus on the effects of ideology and social norms in terms of stress, and we argue why an intersectional approach is necessary to ensure recognition of multiple axes of marginalization and privilege. The article then outlines the concept of decompensation and suggests that it may offer one way to reconsider the effects of ideology and social norms. The decompensation approach centers on the need for social change rather than solely relying on individuals to be resilient.
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    Experiences of separation and divorce among foster and adoptive families: the need for supportive responses
    (SAGE Publications, 2016-01-01) Riggs, Damien Wayne; Blythe, Stacy
    Separation and divorce are realities facing many families. Yet in the case of foster or adoptive families, only a small number of studies have focused on experiences of separation or divorce. This paper seeks to make an initial contribution to filling this gap by exploring the experiences of foster and adoptive families in both Australia and the United States. A thematic analysis of both primary and secondary data collected by the authors identified three themes: 1) that foster families experience variable responses from service providers, 2) that some adoptive parents may perceive that separation or divorce compounds adoption-related losses, and 3) that some adoptees may challenge the assumption that adoptive families have unique experiences of separation or divorce. The paper concludes by advocating for the provision of clear guidelines to foster families who may experience separation or divorce, and highlights the need for supportive community responses to foster or adoptive families who experience separation or divorce.
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    ‘I want to bring him from the aeroplane to here’: The meaning of animals to children of refugee or migrant backgrounds resettled in Australia
    (Wiley, 2016-11-19) Riggs, Damien Wayne; Due, Clemence; Taylor, Nik
    Separation from animals with whom children have caring relationships can lead to considerable loss and grief, perhaps especially in the case of migration. This article reports on a thematic analysis of interviews undertaken with children of migrant or refugee backgrounds who had resettled in Australia. Findings suggest that children who spoke about animals framed their experiences in ways that either evoked a sense of loss with regard to animals or referred to animals as engendering a safe haven following resettlement. The article concludes by exploring potential service responses and encourages a focus on animals' needs in the context of migration.
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    A systematic review of research on psychiatric mother-baby units
    (Springer, 2017-03-22) Connellan, Kathleen; Bartholomaeus, Clare; Due, Clemence; Riggs, Damien Wayne
    Psychiatric mother-baby units (MBUs) are currently viewed as best practice, particularly in the UK, Australia and France, for improving outcomes for mothers and babies when the former are experiencing severe forms of mental illness. A growing number of publications have examined MBUs, but to date, there has not been a comprehensive review of these studies. As such, the systematic review reported in this paper sought to address this gap. A systematic search was conducted for peer-reviewed research and grey literature published in English between 2000 and 2015. A final sample of 44 publications were identified that reported on empirical findings with regard to MBUs. Three quarters of the studies focused on individual MBUs and most studies were quantitative. A thematic analysis of the studies identified three major themes: (1) admissions data, (2) outcomes for mothers, and (3) programmes and interventions. The analysis also identified four secondary themes: (i) follow-up after discharge, (ii) separation of mothers and babies after discharge, (iii) client satisfaction with MBUs, and (iv) partners of women admitted to MBUs. The findings of the review highlight gaps in knowledge about MBUs and provide suggestions for future research.
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    The capacity of South Australian primary school teachers and pre-service teachers to work with trans and gender diverse students
    (Elsevier, 2017-03-26) Bartholomaeus, Clare; Riggs, Damien Wayne; Andrew, Yarrow
    Growing numbers of young people are disclosing that they are trans or gender diverse, requiring affirming and informed responses from schools. This article reports on a survey examining attitudes towards inclusion, comfort, and confidence amongst 180 South Australian primary school teachers and pre-service teachers. The findings suggest that women held more positive attitudes and had greater comfort in working with trans and gender diverse students than men, and that awareness of programs designed to increase understanding was related to more positive attitudes, and greater comfort and confidence. The article discusses the need for further training alongside additional resourcing of initiatives aimed at facilitating inclusion.
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    Daughters and their mothers: The reproduction of pronatalist discourses across generations
    (Elsevier, 2017-03-16) Bartholomaeus, Clare; Riggs, Damien Wayne
    The expectation that all women will become mothers, and that they will mother in particular ways, has been a focus of feminist attention for many decades. What has been less considered is how pronatalist discourses are reproduced across generations within the same family. This article draws on interviews with five pairs of white middle class daughters currently planning to have children and their mothers living in South Australia, in order to examine the ways in which mother-daughter relationships are a key site for the reproduction of pronatalist discourses. Three recurring themes are examined: 1) expectations mothers have of their daughters to have children, 2) (grand)mothers as advice-givers, and 3) generational differences relating to paid work combined with the continued privileging of mothering. The article concludes with a discussion of the ways in which pronatalist discourses are mobilised in mother-daughter relationships, and how these position women in relation to motherhood.
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    Domestic violence and companion animals in the context of LGBT people’s relationships
    (SAGE Publications, 2017-02-17) Taylor, Nik; Fraser, Heather Merle; Riggs, Damien Wayne
    The link between domestic violence and animal abuse has now been well established, indicating that where there is one form of abuse, there is often the other. Research on this link, however, has almost exclusively focused on heterosexual cisgender people’s relationships. Lacking, then, is an exploration of the possibly unique links between domestic violence and animal abuse in the context of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people’s relationships. In this article we adopt a feminist intersectional approach informed by Critical Animal Studies to advocate for a non-pathologising approach to understanding LGBT people’s relationships with regard to the link between domestic violence and animal abuse.
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    Intending fathers: heterosexual men planning for a first child
    (Taylor & Francis, 2017-05-24) Bartholomaeus, Clare; Riggs, Damien Wayne
    Having a child is often treated as a taken for granted part of heterosexual relationships, a norm so entrenched that there is often little discussion amongst couples as to why they want children. In terms of research, while women’s reasons for having children have been explored in detail, little attention has been paid to heterosexual men’s reasons for having children. This article presents a thematic analysis of interview data with 10 Australian heterosexual men in couples who were planning to have a first child in the near future. The men’s responses involved both self-focused motivations, where the child is essentially positioned as an object (e.g. continuing the bloodline), and other-focused motivations, where reasons focused on a future relationship with the child (e.g. teaching and watching a child grow). Our findings show that participants reported self-focused and other-focused motivations for wanting a child, reflecting both traditional and newer approaches to fatherhood.
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    “It’s just what you do”: Australian middle-class heterosexual couples negotiating compulsory parenthood
    (SAGE Publications, 2016-12-15) Riggs, Damien Wayne; Bartholomaeus, Clare
    A distinction is often made between the “choice” of not having children and the claim that having children is “natural”. What disappears in this distinction is the fact that having children is most often a choice. This choice, however, is rendered invisible through the naturalisation of parenthood as a normatively expected aspect of adulthood. Whilst this argument is not new, the topic of how heterosexual couples come to decide to have children has received relatively little attention within the academic literature. This paper reports on findings from the first stage of a longitudinal interview study focused on Australian middle-class heterosexual couples planning for a first child. A thematic analysis of interviews conducted with 10 couples found that a paired contrast was often made between what were constructed as “childless others”, and a “natural” or “innate” desire to have children. The naturalisation of a desire to have children, however, was problematised when participants spoke about expectations from family members that participants should have children. The paper concludes by considering how the relationship between parenthood and adulthood may be a specifically class-based narrative.
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    Transgender young people’s narratives of intimacy and sexual health: Implications for sexuality education
    (Taylor & Francis, 2018-07-19) Riggs, Damien Wayne; Bartholomaeus, Clare
    Sexuality education as pedagogy is often fraught by the perceived need to balance the informational needs of young people with an investment in notions of childhood innocence. Nowhere is this perhaps more evident than in sexuality education that seeks to be inclusive of transgender young people, often resulting in the failure of such education to address the needs of such students. In an attempt at addressing the relative dearth of information about what transgender young people would like to see covered in sexuality education, in this article we explore transgender young people’s accounts of intimacy and sexual health and consider what this means for school-based sexuality education. To do this we analyse discussions of intimacy from the perspectives of transgender young people as narrated in a sample of YouTube videos. We conclude by advocating for an approach to sexuality education that largely eschews the gendering of body parts and gametes, and which instead focuses on function, so as to not only address the needs of transgender young people (who may find normative discussions of genitals distressing), but to also provide cisgender young people with a more inclusive understanding of their own and other people’s bodies and desires.
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    The transition to parenthood for Australian heterosexual couples: expectations, experiences and the partner relationship
    (BioMed Central, 2018-08-22) Riggs, Damien Wayne; Worth, Anna; Bartholomaeus, Clare
    Background: The perinatal period precipitates significant intra- and inter- personal changes. How heterosexual couples understand and account for such changes, however, has received relatively little attention. Methods: Semi-structured individual interviews were undertaken as part of a longitudinal study on planned first-time parenthood. This article reports on an inductive thematic analysis of a data corpus focused on six interview questions (three from interviews conducted during pregnancy, and three from interviews conducted six months after the birth of the child), derived from interviews with eight individuals (4 women and 4 men) comprising four couples. Results: In antenatal interviews, the theme of intrapersonal changes differentiated participants by two sub-themes that were then linked to postpartum experiences. Those who ‘prepared for the worst’ reported positive experiences after the arrival of a child, whilst participants who during pregnancy viewed life after the arrival of a child as ‘an unknown’ experienced challenges. Similarly in terms of the theme of interpersonal change, antenatal interviews were linked to postpartum experiences by two sub-themes, such that participants who approached the impending arrival of a child as a team effort reported that the arrival of a child cemented their relationship, whilst participants who expected that the couple relationship would buffer child-related stressors experienced challenges. Conclusions: Findings highlight the importance of a focus in antenatal education on the psychological effects of new parenthood, and support for the couple relationship during the perinatal period.
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    Making matter matter: Meanings accorded to genetic material among Australian gay men
    (Elsevier, 2018-07-24) Riggs, Damien Wayne
    As growing numbers of gay men enter into the reproductive realm, opportunities emerge for the rewriting or revision of kinship ties. Given the hegemonic status of genetic matter in the context of kinship, however, it is perhaps unsurprising that, amongst gay men, there are complex negotiations over how, and in what instances, genetic matter will be made to matter. This paper explores the question of genetic matter in the context of gay men's reproductive journeys by examining data from three studies: (i) an interview study with men who had donated sperm; (ii) an interview study with people who had entered into surrogacy arrangements; and (iii) a study of news media and blogs that document the experiences of people who have entered into surrogacy arrangements. Focusing solely on the gay men in these three studies, four thematic contexts were identified in which genetic matter was made salient with regard to kinship: (i) claiming kinship in the context of sperm donation; (ii) couples negotiating genetic matter in the context of surrogacy arrangements; (iii) minimizing the genetic contribution of women who act as egg donors; and (iv) controlling the flow of information about genetic matter to children. This paper concludes by suggesting the need for both the decentring of genetic matter in reproduction amongst gay men (e.g. exploring alternate routes to parenthood), and the recentring of genetic matter in instances where genetic relatedness is the basis of kinship (e.g. acknowledging the roles, needs and lifeworlds of all parties).
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    Support for family diversity: a three-country study
    (Taylor & Francis, 2018-02-12) Riggs, Damien Wayne; Due, Clemence
    Objective: To understand levels of support for differences between families in terms of sexuality and mode of family formation across three countries. Background: Previous research has found that attitudes towards family diversity continue to improve over time, although differences remain. Methods: Subjects were 1605 people living in Australia, the United Kingdom or the United States who completed a questionnaire which sought to explore levels of support for a diverse range of family forms and modes of family formation. Results: Religiosity, political leanings and beliefs about the importance of genetic relatedness were all correlated with level of support. Gender of participant was a predictor of level of support. Cluster analysis indicated three clusters (unsupportive, neutral and supportive) for level of support, for which both sexuality and parent status were predictors. Conclusion: Findings highlight the normative status of reproductive heterosex, and demonstrate the considerable value accorded to genetic relatedness.
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    Gaslighting in the context of clinical interactions with parents of transgender children
    (Taylor & Francis, 2018-02-28) Riggs, Damien Wayne; Bartholomaeus, Clare
    Understood as a type of identity-related abuse, gaslighting is a form of manipulation where the perpetrator attempts to convince someone that their thoughts, perceptions, or beliefs are mistaken. In the clinical context, gaslighting is often seen as part of a broader constellation of abuse and violence between adults. However, it can also happen in more subtle ways, and can present in ways that are difficult to detect. This paper explores instances where gaslighting may potentially occur in clinical interactions involving parents of transgender children. Three fictionalised case studies are presented drawing on the first author's clinical work, and demonstrate three overarching forms of gaslighting: (1) deferred action, (2) intentional forgetting, and (3) placing an emotional burden on the child. Having presented the three cases, the paper concludes by discussing how clinicians might identify and respond to gaslighting, emphasising (1) speaking with children on their own, (2) speaking on behalf of children to parents, (3) modelling advocacy to parents, (4) correcting misgendering in the clinical context, and (5) using peer supervision to discuss cases. In sum, the paper argues that whilst clinicians should not rush to “diagnose” gaslighting, clinicians should also not overlook its powerful effects upon transgender young people.
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    ‘That’s my job’: accounting for division of labour amongst heterosexual first time parents
    (Taylor & Francis, 2018-04-10) Riggs, Damien Wayne; Bartholomaeus, Clare
    For heterosexual couples who enter into parenthood, having a first child often has a significant impact on the ways in which their lives are organised. Importantly, women typically take on the greatest share of household and care work, reflecting broader cultural norms in relation to gender. Drawing on case studies of four Australian heterosexual couples, this article examines the ways in which the couples discussed the distribution of household and care work. By tracking the same couples from prior to pregnancy to after the birth of their child, we are able to focus on expectations and ideals in relation to unpaid and paid work, and how these relate to what happens in practice. The cases suggest four key issues, namely (1) the positioning of household and care work as not being work, (2) the positioning of women as ‘lucky’ if their male partner is ‘helpful’, (3) the primary orientation of men towards earning a paid income as a way of providing for their family, and (4) the unequal distribution of caring responsibility. The paper concludes by considering the implications of these issues with regard to how the division of labour is understood in the context of heterosexual first-time parents.