Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

Psychology and Social Science

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

Abstract

Using a concurrent multi-methods design employing both quantitative and qualitative methodologies this study investigated the psychosocial wellbeing Western Australian fly-in/fly-out (FIFO) mining employees and their partners. The quantitative phase of the study assessed the psychological wellbeing, relationship satisfaction and perceptions of family function of 90 FIFO mining employees and 32 partners of FIFO employees using the General Health Questionnaire 12, the Dyadic Adjustment Scale and the Family Assessment Device. Analyses revealed that both FIFO employees and their partners are within the norms for healthy functioning on the scales and sub-scales of the measures of psychological wellbeing, relationship satisfaction and perceptions of family function, and that there were no statistically significant differences between the scores of the two groups on any of these measures. Further, there were no significant differences when data were analysed according to family type or profile of absence. Thus, despite perceptions that regular FIFO employment related absence would have adverse impacts on various aspects of wellbeing, the group of FIFO employees and partners in this study report similar levels of psychological wellbeing, relationship satisfaction and perceptions of family function to those of the general Australian population. The qualitative phase used constructivist grounded theory methodology to explore the experiences of FIFO employees and partners of FIFO employees in order to develop an understanding and theoretical scheme of the role of contextual factors in their adaptation to the FIFO lifestyle. In-depth interviews were conducted with a medium sized sample of 16 FIFO employees and 12 partners of FIFO employees. The findings from the qualitative phase are discussed in light of existing literature and the findings from the quantitative phase. The data revealed a number of individual, family, community and workplace factors that impact on individual experiences of and adaptation to the FIFO lifestyle. Informants generally made purposeful and informed choices to undertake FIFO employment based on the notion that “the benefits outweigh the costs”, that the lifestyle associated with FIFO employment would considerably increase individual and family access to financial and psychosocial resources, and that the net gains in personal and family resources would outweigh any losses. These findings challenge earlier presumptions that the regular absences associated with FIFO employment would result in a loss of individual and family resources and would impact negatively on the psychosocial wellbeing of FIFO employees and their partners. The strengths and limitations of the study are outlined as are suggestions for future research. Implications of the findings at the individual, community, corporate and government levels are presented together with recommendations for future actions.