Your Letters

More dating options, but fewer babies

Office workers crossing a road at Robinson Road.
Office workers crossing a road at Robinson Road.PHOTO: ST FILE

Many factors have been identified as contributing to the trend of later marriages and fewer babies ("Tackling S'pore's baby shortage"; last Sunday).

Higher education, the focus on careers, personal goals and lifestyle preferences have taken precedence over starting a family in Singapore.

There are signs that this trend will endure and possibly become more pronounced.

The Pew Research Centre has reported that millennials in the United States are significantly less likely to be married in their 20s than their counterparts in previous generations. This has been attributed to a culture of increasing self-absorption and individualism, which is likely mirrored by the youth in Singapore.

Pervasive Internet and social media usage, with the perception that there is an unlimited choice of partners, may also work against people settling down early.

Coupled with the fading stigma of being unattached, there is also a mindset that one does not need a partner to be happy.

Pervasive Internet and social media usage, with the perception that there is an unlimited choice of partners, may also work against people settling down early.

The "choice overload" phenomenon was first articulated in a 2000 paper by Columbia Business School professor Sheena Iyengar and Stanford psychologist Mark Lepper.

They showed that when shoppers at a supermarket were presented with six types of jam, they were far more likely to buy one than when they had a choice of 24 types. Other studies confirmed this decision paralysis, with more options not only leading to less selection but also less satisfaction when a selection was made.

As a corollary, dating websites, with their seemingly abundant choices of mates, may be paradoxically hindering partner selection rather than facilitating it.

Rutgers University biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, a renowned expert on the science of love who is also chief scientific adviser to dating website Match.com, believes that choice overload is one of the biggest problems in online dating today.

Things were arguably less complicated during my younger days without today's high-tech dating.

I met my husband in a university hostel, got married in our mid-20s, and had our daughter two years later. We had wanted more children but the stork did not call again. But if we had waited until our 30s to have children, we might not even have had one.

Bringing up our daughter, of course, entailed sacrifices and challenges, but the joy she brings to us is unparalleled.

Maria Loh Mun Foong (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 21, 2016, with the headline 'More dating options, but fewer babies YourLetters'. Print Edition | Subscribe