Divorced and never-married mothers in Singapore Practices, challenges and hopes



Publication Details

Quah, S. & Tang, S. (2018). Divorced and never-married mothers in Singapore Practices, challenges and hopes. In W. Jean. Yeung & S. Hu (Eds.), Family and Population Changes in Singapore A unique case in the global family change (pp. 150-162). London: Routledge.


In contemporary Singapore, the concept of the family is one overwhelmingly focused on the 'traditional' nuclear family made up of a married heterosexual couple and their children, with the husband as head of the household. This 'traditional' family form has been constructed in state nationalist discourse as the 'bedrock of society', that which provides a cultural ballast to 'modern' alternative forms such as one-parent families, cohabitation, same-sex couplehood and singlehood so prevalent in the West. In this formulation, the Singaporean family is essentialised as Asian within the state's ideological investment in a binary oppositioning of 'East' and 'West' that the state constantly invokes to 'talk back' (Ang & Stratton, 1995, p. 66) or moralise against the West (Chua, 1990, p. 17) in its articulation of Singapore's national cultural identity. The late Lee Kuan Yew, the nation's first Prime Minister, widely regarded as the founding father of Singapore, provided such a characterisation of the 'traditional' family model in a 1994 interview with the American Foreign Affairs magazine. Lee said, 'Eastern societies believe that the individual exists in the context of his family. He is not pristine and separate . . . the govern-ment does not try to provide for a person what the family best provides'. But in the West, Lee compared, the government's provision for families after the second World War

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