Social costs of divorce go beyond child maintenance

As we await the release of new guidelines on child maintenance ("A guide to child maintenance"; Jan 18), it is vital to also consider the social costs of divorce.

Divorce creates emotional and financial stress, leading to lower levels of well-being.

Results from a survey conducted by the Ministry of Social and Family Development on the social attitudes of Singaporeans revealed that those who are divorced, separated or widowed are less likely to be satisfied with their family life, compared to those who are single or married.

The fear of parents' divorce may well be one of the most pervasive yet least reported fears that children grow up with.

Research shows that marital breakdown affects children's physical and psychological well-being, their relationships with relatives and peers, and their tendency to engage in antisocial and criminal behaviour.

With the exception of parents facing unresolvable marital violence, studies show that children living with their married, biological parents consistently fare better than children from other family structures in physical and psychological well-being, conduct, self-esteem and social competence.

A 2016 Prudential survey revealed that 24 per cent of married Singaporeans seriously think each week about leaving their spouses.

According to another study, married individuals who perceived their marriage was in trouble or thought about divorce were more likely to divorce than those who did not.

The social costs of divorce go beyond child maintenance.

In comparison, the prevention of marital breakdown in the first place is less costly and less painful.

Studies show that couples who receive premarital education tend to report higher levels of satisfaction with their marriages, less conflict with their spouses, stronger commitment to their marriages and lower chances of divorce than those who do not.

The article posed the question: "What is a reasonable sum of money needed to raise a child?"

More than tuition, enrichment classes, birthday parties or yearly travels, children need a secure and loving environment to grow and thrive in. And it doesn't take much to raise a child if we give them what they truly need - the stable, loving marriage of their parents.

Vicky Ho (Ms)

Head of Research and Development

Focus on the Family Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2017, with the headline 'Social costs of divorce go beyond child maintenance'. Print Edition | Subscribe