Post-print of Graham, A & Fitzgerald, RM 2006, 'Taking account of the 'to and fro' of children's experiences of family law', Children Australia vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 30-36.
This paper will outline the possibilities and tensions that emerge in legal and social discourse when popular images and narratives of children as ‘at risk’, are juxtaposed with more revised constructions of the child as capable and autonomous. The paper explores this shift in representation of children against a background of radical family law reform currently underway in Australia. It then reports insights from a pilot study which found that children ‘to and fro’ between accounts of hurt and powerlessness associated with divorce and their desire to participate in the processes and decisions taking place around them. In identifying the different voices that children move between when they speak of their experiences of divorce transitions, the paper posits that discourses of participation taken up in research, practice and policy need to acknowledge a dialectic relationship between agency and vulnerability if we are to respond to children in ways that include rather than marginalise. The paper concludes by exploring some of the challenges that exist for researchers and practitioners seeking to be open to new ways of thinking, based on an ethic that refuses the kind of subjectification, normalisation and neat analyses conventionally pursued through research endeavours.