Professor Bruce Smyth

Professor of Family Studies
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • Family Law 180113
  • Social Policy 160512
  • Family And Household Studies 160301
  • Applied Sociology, Program Evaluation And Social Impact Assessment 160801
  • Policy And Administration 1605
  • Sociology 1608

Research interests

  • Post-separation patterns of parenting - particularly shared parenting
  • High-conflict divorce
  • Child support
  • Financial living standards after separation
  • Spousal support
  • Binding financial agreements
  • Relocation and parenting disputes
  • Allegations of family violence in family law proceedings
  • Allegations of child sexual abuse
  • Mandatory divorce mediation
  • Digital divorce
  • Family life education
  • The meaning of 'home' to children and young people after parental separation
  • Social research methods
  • Human research ethics and integrity



Bruce was born in London to an English mother and American father (Buffalo, NY). He has been working as a social scientist in family law for almost 3 decades. Prior to joining the ANU in March 2007, Bruce worked at the Australian Institute of Family Studies in Melbourne as a Senior Research Fellow. He was a member of the Ministerial Taskforce on Child Support (2004-2005), and was awarded an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (2012-2016) to investigate the high conflict post-divorce shared-time family.

In June 2018, he received the Stanley Cohen Distinguished Research Award from the American Association of Family & Conciliation Courts (AFCC) in recognition of outstanding research and research achievements in the field of family and divorce. In 2021, Bruce and his colleagues were awarded the Meyer Elkin Essay Award for the best article in Family Court Review: COVID-19 in Australia: Impacts on separated families, family law professionals, and family courts.

Bruce is an active member of the ANU Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC).

Researcher's projects

Bruce Smyth, Bryan Rodgers and the research team completed an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project Grant in 2012 to examine the impacts of the 2006-2008 child support reforms in Australia.

Bruce completed (a) an ARC Future Fellowship studying the high-conflict post-divorce shared-time family [write-up in progress]; (b) an ARC Discovery Project with Prof Belinda Fehlberg (Melbourne Law School; Lead CI),  Prof Kristin Natalier (Flinders University; 2nd CI), and Dr Monica Campo (Melbourne Law School; Senior Research Fellow) on the meaning of 'home' to children after parental separation; and (c) a study of allegations of child sexual abuse in family law procedings - with his colleagues, Nola Webb, Prof Lawrie Moloney and Robyn Monit.

Current projects include:

  1. an ARC Linkage Project with Prof Jason Payne (Griffith University, formerly ANU), Dr Genevieve Heard (Relationships Australia Victoria), Dr Glenn Althor (Relationships Australia Canberra and region), and Michelle Irving (ANU); 
  2. a study of binding financial agreements with Miranda Kaye (UTS), Prof Belinda Fehlberg (Melbourne Law School), and A/Prof Lisa Samas (Melbourne Law School);
  3. co-editing a volume with Prof Michael Martin and Mandy Downing on Human Research Ethics and Integrity from an Australian perspective (Routledge).

Current student projects

Giverney Ainscough, Doctoral candidate: Working with disability and illness inclusion policy: Lecturer, student and Inclusion staff perspectives

Nathan Wiltshire, Doctoral candidate: Towards a new cultural theory of empathy

Michelle Irving, Doctoral candidate: Tech-fueled abuse after parental separation

Audrey Mwape Kalindi, Doctoral candidate: Unravelling Inequities in Maternal Health care utilisation and maternal and child health outcomes in Zambia

Adelaide Bragias, Doctoral candidate: Intra-familial homicide in Australia and New Zealand

Leonie Lam, MSR(Advanced): Communicating Covid-19 health information to migrant groups in Australia: an exploratory study

Past student projects

Nea-Ann Bax, Doctoral candidate, Exploring the relationship between re-partnering, parental involvement, family dynamics, and family wellbeing (awarded in 2017)

Maria Vnuk, Doctoral candidate, Mothers who pay or should pay child support in Australia (awarded in 2018)

Tempe Archer, M Phil candidate, The recent parliamentary inquiry into the Australian Child Support Program: A critical review (awarded in 2021)

Tess Evanstar, Doctoral candidate: Maternal employability, conditionality and the role of family services in the Australian social security system  (awarded in 2022)

Nadienne Roffey, Doctoral candidate: The lived experience of reintegration: Post-prison trajectories and the impact of social support networks (awarded in 2021)

James O’Donnell, Doctoral candidate: A demographic framework for understanding the dynamics of homelessness (awarded in 2019)

Shelby Higgs Howarth, Doctoral candidate: Disaster Resilience, Vulnerability and Adaptive capacity of Street Children in Manilla (awarded in 2016)

Thong Anh Tran, Doctoral candidate: Flood Governance in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam (awarded in 2016)

Nepali Sah, Doctoral candidate: Patterns and Determinants of Age at First Marriage of Women in Nepal (awarded in 2010)

Tempe Archer, MPhil: The 2014 Parliamentary Inquiry into the Child Support Program: A critical analysis of submissions (awarded in 2020)

Tianyu Shen,  MSR(Advanced): International Students’ Experience of Casual Paid Work in Australia: An exploratory study  (awarded in 2021)

Kubra Yuce, MSR(Advanced): Muslim women and paid work  (awarded in 2019)

Iona Rennie, MSR(Advanced): Attitudes to sexual harassment by university students  (awarded in 2019)

Giverney Ainscough, MSR(Advanced): Working with students with Education Access Plans: Lecturer and tutor perspectives  (awarded in 2018)

Olanike Babalola, MSR(Advanced): Exploring Complexity in Separated Parents' Relationship Dynamics (awarded in 2015)

Leticia Good, MSR(Advanced): Paternal involvement with children after parental separation: Does length & type of former relationship matter? (awarded in 2012)


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Updated:  14 June 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers