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Fly-in fly-out study

Thursday, 13 October 2011


ECU researchers are investigating the effect that a parent’s fly-in fly-out (FIFO) employment has on the health and wellbeing of their adolescent children in what is an Australian-first study.

PhD student Jacinth Watson, from ECU’s Child Health Promotion Research Centre (CHPRC), is seeking families with adolescents aged from 12 to 17 for the study. She would like to hear from both families with a FIFO parent and those without.

Ms Watson said the FIFO work roster, common in the resources and construction sectors, was a relatively recent phenomenon in Western Australia and there was no research on how the regular absences of a parent affected their adolescent’s capacity to be resilient.

“We want to know if adolescents who live in FIFO families adapt to the absence of the parent and become more self reliant, develop higher levels of self esteem and have increased capacity to be resilient,” she said.

“Or is the absence of the parent a disruptive effect on the adolescent, making it more difficult for them to cope with other challenges in their life?”

CHPRC Director, Associate Professor Stacey Waters, said existing research from the US, UK, Canada and Australia suggested that FIFO work patterns create unique challenges for families.

“The CHPRC’s focus is to use our research to develop resources to help the communities we work with. We hope that Jacinth’s research will give us a clearer idea of the impacts of FIFO employment and enable us to provide guidance to parents to address issues that may arise with their adolescent children,” Associate Professor Waters said.

Initial results of Ms Watson’s study have found:

  • 73.5% of adolescents are sad when the FIFO parent returns to work;
  • 43.1% felt nervous or anxious when the FIFO parent returns to work;
  • 45.6% worry about the FIFO parent’s safety at work;
  • 54.1% do not talk about their experience of the FIFO lifestyle with their friends;
  • 42.7% state it is more difficult to talk about things that may be ‘bothering’ to the FIFO parent when the parent is at work; and
  • 86.8% communicate with their FIFO parent (when the parent is at work). The telephone is the most frequent means of communication for the FIFO parent and adolescent, with email (84.3%) SMS (34.5%) and Facebook (25.8%) also used.

Families interested in participating in the study are invited to email Ms Watson. Families will need to complete a confidential survey.

No participants will be identified in the results of the study. The study has ethics approval from the Research Ethics Office at ECU.

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