In the context of 50/50 shared care, the focus group interviews illustrated that most parents in this category did not seek legal interventions. These interviews discussed the depth of the relationship, whereas quantitative methods would not have access to such information. Focusing on the mind set of the parents deepened understanding as to why '50/50 contact' works. Quantitative data highlighted the statistics (fathers in this category were more likely to be single and mothers were more likely to have higher personal incomes).
As other pieces of empirical research have suggested that parents should share contact of their children (the current law),15 this reflects the governments' policy aim 'to increase the proportion of parents making arrangement for themselves. ' (ibid). This could be an area of possible reform I. e. to reduce the number of court proceedings. 16 Proposals include; improving parental access to those services which enable them to reach agreements and improving legal processes and service delivery for those who do not go to court. 17 The non-resident parents in the 'daytime-only' contact do not appear to be as fortunate.
Data in both qualitative/quantitative research for this category suggests that financial costs (such as the cost of extra bedrooms), child-age-related factors and parental conflict result in this type of contact. The law at present (in most social security systems) is unsatisfactory, as children must spend a significant amount of time in the care of the non-resident parent before that parent can become eligible for a share of family related benefits. 18 This may discourage non-resident parents from letting their children stay over night, which places a limit on the quality of their relationship.
The law needs to change, by providing additional support. Data from the HILDA survey (in the 'little or no contact' category) suggests that parents who report little or no father-child contact have a distinctive demographic profile – mothers and fathers tend to be renting. This could act as an incentive for the government reforming the law to help those who are at an economic disadvantage. Within the 'Holiday only contact', data revealed that young people who had experienced relocation by either of their parents reported faring worse on a range of financial and emotional outcomes, compared to those who remained in close proximity.
The validity of these results may be questionable. Indeed, in terms of internal validity, (relating to the reliability of the data), we cannot be sure that there is a definite causal connection between the variables. Whilst it is likely that the independent variable ('Holiday only contact') is, in part, responsible for the variation in the dependent variable (the extent of financial and emotional problems), a wide range of other factors could also be causing the problems. 19
Finally, the data for 'Standard' contact (alternate weekend contact), suggests that this category is perceived as the 'norm' and is opted for by default. This draws attention to the poor availability of knowledge within many legal systems, as many people are unaware of any feasible alternatives. 20HILDA data provides strong findings that money does impact on the quality of the relationship. The non-resident fathers in this category are mostly earning in excess of $35,000, and their ability to financially support their children, means that contact is more regular.
Even though this research was conducted in Australia, the findings should be generalised across social settings I. e. the findings can be transferred to other populations (feature of trustworthiness). 21 The Quantitative HILDA data doesn't appear to show any problems with external validity. The nature of the focus group interviews do show reliability problems (external reliability). This investigation could not easily be replicated, unless the researcher were to adopt a similar social role that was adopted by the original researcher.
The quantitative study; 'Estimating the cost of Contact for Non-resident Parents: A Budget Standards Approach,' involves mainly secondary analysis of quantitative data drawn from a wide range of statistics. It focuses on the structural reasons why non-resident parents do not see their children as often as they would like to. Secondary analysis; '… is the analysis of data by researchers who will probably not have been involved in the collection of those data… '22 Some of the advantages of secondary analysis include; Cost and time, high quality data and representative samples.
Data sets can be accessed easily from data archives without having to collect data yourself. The highest quality data sets can be picked out for secondary analysis, ensuring accurate and representative samples. This essentially leaves more time for the analysis and interpretation of data. Cross-cultural research can also be conducted using secondary analysis to compare data. 23 Conversely, some limitations of secondary analysis include the lack of familiarity with data and so researchers must take time to familiarize themselves with the range of variables.
Also, the complexity of the data, such as large data sets, can cause problems with managing the data. 24 As the data is an estimation, and uses a budget standards methodology, issues of reliability are bound to arise. The financial estimate of the costs faced by non-resident parents in maintaining contact, could be an unreliable measure. Indeed, the estimate was not derived from survey data on how much non-resident parent actually spend, but rather, the goods and services were judged appropriate to care for children during contact. This suggests the manipulation of existing data sets.
Results found that for contact with one child for 20 per cent of the year, costs of contact represent about 40% of the costs of that same child in an intact couple household. These findings are questionable, and there may be evidence of an unstable reading of the underlying concept. However, the fact remains that infrastructural costs are high, and the cost of providing extra bedrooms, furniture etc for children, could indicate that the estimate has actually created a realistic figure. The research design is experimental in nature, as it is by no means authoritative.
In this sense it is strong in terms of internal validity. For the purposes of this investigation, it is necessary to manipulate the independent variables (I. e. the infrastructural and transportation costs) in order to determine whether it does in fact have an influence on the dependent variable. (I. e. contact). However, a major criticism of quantitative research is that; '…. the connections between the measurements developed by social scientists and the concepts they are supposed to be revealing is assumed rather than real…