Singapore

Children face long-term ‘divorce penalties’: Study

First such local study shows children of divorced couples earn less and are likelier to divorce than peers

A landmark study examining the marital and economic records of more than 100,000 Singaporeans found that their parents' divorce inflicted a long-lasting toll on key areas of their lives.

At age 35, these adults whose parents divorced before they turned 21 earned less than their peers whose parents stayed together, and they themselves were more likely to get divorced, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development study.

The first local study of its kind, titled Inter-generational Effects of Divorce on Children in Singapore, found they face long-term "divorce penalties" or disadvantages brought about by their parents' marital split. The study, released yesterday, found that:

 • Children from divorced families were less likely to obtain a university degree.

 • Children whose parents divorced earned less than their peers whose parents stayed married.

 • Children whose parents went their separate ways were also less likely to get married.

 • Children whose parents were divorced were more likely to be divorced themselves.

The study looked at the economic and marriage outcomes of 101,180 Singaporeans born between 1979 and 1981 and was based on aggregated data from multiple sources of administrative and survey records.

To ensure that the study was comparing families of similar backgrounds, apart from the parents' marital status, children from divorced families were matched with those whose parents remained married on a range of demographic characteristics, such as their parents' ages and their highest qualifications at the point of marriage.

The study comes as the number of divorces has inched up, with 7,330 divorces last year, up from 6,990 in 2018. Some 55 per cent of divorces last year involved couples with at least one child under 21.

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said in the study's media statement: "With this landmark study, we now know that the effects of divorce on a child are not temporary, and impact the child's future, his education and his family when he marries. This is why post-divorce, positive co-parenting is so important."

The Institute of Policy Studies' senior research fellow Mathew Mathews noted that not every child who comes from a divorced family is affected in the same way.

He said: "The availability of adequate support - perhaps from the extended family and community - can mediate the extent of negative effects that children experience post-divorce."

TNP GRAPHICS

The report said that to mitigate the negative impact of divorces, efforts to help couples build strong marriages and interventions to help children adjust to life after their parents' divorce are important.

The ministry and its community partners run a suite of services, from marriage preparation programmes to six divorce support agencies providing specialised help to couples going their separate ways.

FOR MORE, READ THE STRAITS TIMES

COMMUNITY ISSUES