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Singled Out: Household and Family Structure, Social Capital Connectivity, and the Well-Being of Low-Income Single-Parent Households in Singapore

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Abstract

Financial stress and parental absence doubly disadvantage low-income single-parent households. Consequently, Singaporean adolescents reared in single-parent households have lower levels of long-term education, economic, and marital outcomes. Concern for the well-being of low-income and/or single-parent households has grown, and Singapore’s socio-demographic trends and geographical features also make it likely that these households reach out to diverse social capital sources. Some of these trends are also observed globally. However, heterogeneity based on household/family structure is poorly understood, and within-group variations of social capital and how they relate to parental and adolescent well-being remain research gaps. Jointly guided by social capital and family systems theory and ecological theories of human development, this study examines the relationships between social capital connectivity and the well-being of parents and adolescents in low-income single-parent Singaporean households.

An exploratory sequential mixed-methods dyadic research design was applied. Findings from 72 in-depth interviews and 9 focus group discussions with 32 participants informed the design of a survey questionnaire involving 129 parents and 132 adolescents, which was pretested with 5 social workers and 4 dyads.

Following a forward stepwise regression procedure, parents with greater household, extended family, friend, and neighborhood/community support had higher life satisfaction. Those with less extended family and friend strain reported higher life satisfaction. Parents with greater household and extended family support and who were employed full-time had higher flourishing. Unexpectedly, household strain positively predicted life satisfaction. Adolescents with greater household, school, and neighborhood/community support had higher life satisfaction. Those with greater household, friend, and school support reported higher flourishing. Unexpectedly, adolescents with more friend support and greater mentor access had lower life satisfaction. Those with more extended family support also reported lower flourishing. Overall, bonding social capital had the largest influence on parental well-being, while it was bridging social capital for adolescent well-being.

Understanding the variation of social capital connectivity in relation to well-being can result in knowledge about how and why some low-income single-parent households cope better than others. The study is also consistent with Singaporean advocacy efforts to reduce prejudice and/or discrimination against these households and help improve programs and services designed for them.

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This item is under embargo until December 6, 2023.