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Research Project on

Reconfiguring The Family In Alternative Spaces: Marginalisation And Agency Of Single Parents In Singapore

Researchers: Theresa Wong
Asian MetaCentre for Population and
Sustainable Development Analysis

Brenda Yeoh
Asian MetaCentre for Population and
Sustainable Development Analysis


Conceived in the wake of increasing debate on single parenthood and the appearance of alternative family forms on Singapore’s social landscape, this study aims to explore the way single parents negotiate with the ‘traditional’, Confucian concept of the complete, nuclear family propounded by the Singapore government.

The study is part of a larger project on ‘Intergenerational relationships, fertility and the family in Singapore’, involving in-depth interviews with 60 Singaporean Chinese men and women on fertility issues, family formation and parenthood. While the larger project focuses on dual-parent families, this study takes on 12 additional in-depth interviews to explore the views of single parents in traversing a similar terrain in everyday negotiations.

The study will examine the strategies engaged by single parents in reworking notions of ‘family’ in their households through their decisions relating to childcare, remarriage and fertility. The study highlights the daily practical issues that require their constant renegotiation with time and space, both at home and at work, which have led them to become more effective agents for change rather than actors passively constrained by institutional emphases on the nuclear family form. The study concludes by highlighting the need for policy to tune in to the needs of alternative family forms, and indeed, to a changing social climate.


Paper presented at the 1st Population Geographies Conference, St. Andrews, Scotland, July 19-23, 2002.

Paper under review for the International Journal of Population Geography




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