chapter  2
26 Pages

Origin and transition of Singapore families

WithZheng Mu, Shu Hu

This chapter reviews the historical origins and contemporary transformations of Singapore families. The three officially designated ethnic groups – Chinese, Malays, and Indians, vary in migration history and socio-demographic origins. We show their respective trajectories of family behaviours and attitudes and examine institutional, historical, and cultural factors that have shaped these changes. We also document how, through the joint process of ethnic interactions, globalization, and modernization, the ethnic differences since the colonial times have been maintained and changed. Embedded in the same social, economic, and political institutions, Chinese, Malays, and Indians exhibit more similarities in family behaviours to each other than to their co-ethnic groups in other countries. Gaps were shown between ideals and behaviours of family structure, which indicates Singaporeans’ ambivalent family attitudes due to competition between entrenched familism and rising individualism.