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The work pattern of North Sea oil workers (typically, 2-3 weeks offshore alternating with a similar period of leave) imposes significant demands on the families concerned. The effects of 'intermittent husband absence' were recognized in the 1980s, but little recent research has focused on the adaptation of offshore families in spite of changes in the industry, in local communities, and in society more widely. The material reported here was derived from survey responses (N = 245), and from telephone interviews (N = 39) with spouses of men working offshore in 2001-2002. Demographic data, descriptive material, and literature findings are drawn together and illustrated with quotations to present a picture of spouses' perceptions, both positive and negative, of offshore lifestyles. Particular areas of interest are responses to the repeated partings and reunions involved in offshore work; the impact of intermittent father absences on children; communications with the absent partner; and employment outside the home and its role in the lives of offshore spouses. Spouses' concerns about offshore safety and job security are also noted. Relative to earlier research, the findings present a more favourable impression of the adaptation and satisfaction of offshore families. © 2005 Taylor & Francis.

Original publication




Journal article


Community, Work and Family

Publication Date





413 - 437