Give more support to families in distress

Research has shown a strong correlation between divorce and other social problems such as child abuse, youth crime and even elderly neglect.

These manifestations of unsociable behaviour often stem from problems faced by the adult in managing his or her own relationships, and emotional deficiencies in the child which result from a missing parent.

The Family Justice Court's statistics reveal that over half of youth delinquency cases stem from broken families.

Research on the inter-generational transmission of divorce has demonstrated that, compared with the offspring of non-divorced parents, those of divorced parents have more negative attitudes towards marriage and are less optimistic about the feasibility of a long-lasting, healthy marriage.

Women are particularly affected, potentially raising their risk for divorce.

As a developed society with increasingly complex familial dynamics, it is crucial for Singapore's family justice and social support systems to consider ways to detect families-at-risk, proactively intervene and provide support for families in distress.

To this end, the goal should always be to promote and encourage strong marriages and families.

Besides upstream measures to support strong families, more research and intervention work should be done by the Family Courts and related agencies to stem inter-generational family conflict.

In the Family Courts, more attention should be given to divorce and family violence cases where one or both parties have a history of family conflict, to render increased support and curb abuse.

Children affected by divorce should be better monitored via a social support system to ensure their well-being and healthy development.

Holistic intervention should be undertaken in dealing with young offenders or delinquent youth - by taking into account family background and involving family members in rehabilitation.

Divorces and family conflict affect not just individuals, but also the extended family and society, often across generations.

By investing to strengthen families and mend relationships, we are investing in Singapore's future which will reap benefits for generations to come.

Heather Lim (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2018, with the headline 'Give more support to families in distress'. Print Edition | Subscribe