Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Andrew Guilfoyle

Abstract

Fly-in/fly-out (FIFO) practices in the mining and contracting industries are currently prominent and expanding throughout Western Australia. There is a strong need for effective social support systems for families during the worker's deployment due to long periods of time apart, reappraisal of family roles and social isolation. This study used a hermeneutic phenomenological approach to explore the lived experiences of parents whose partners are employed on a fly-in/fly-out basis and their views of social support systems in addressing the issues of loneliness and isolation. Family resilience was also utilised to investigate how female home-based partners deal with the stress involved with the FIFO lifestyle. Triangulation was used to build interpretive rigour and to access two relevant samples in order to reach the widest audience range. Twelve online interviews were conducted from the research forum of a pregnancy and parenting' website. Twelve participants took part in semi-structured face-to-face interviews which were audio-recorded and transcribed. Following analysis of the data using thematic content analysis as described by Braun and Clarke (2006), four major themes were identified. These were; emotional support, instrumental support, social interactions and family resilience through positive reappraisal. The online sample reported more enduring experiences of loneliness and social isolation and was more likely to have younger children, less experience with the FIFO lifestyle and less time in their current partner relationship. Thus, supporting current literature that has identified family life stage and experience with partner absence as modifying factors in family stress and coping (Gallegos, 2006; Taylor & Simmonds, 2009). Support needs were found to be related to both the issues of critical timing as found by Gallegos (2006), and to the high levels of parental responsibility, demands and time restraints experienced during their partner's absence. Emotional support was provided primarily by partners, while the participant's parents were their main source of instrumental support. Many participants reported strong, supportive social networks and an ability to elicit support if required. However, further research is needed on families new to the FIFO lifestyle and those in early family life stages. In addition, longitudinal studies are required to examine the longer term impact of this lifestyle on families.

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