Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Recent marriages not standing the test of time

They are breaking up more often than those in the past, study shows
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 7 Apr 2015

MARRIAGES, it seems, do not last the way they used to. Recent ones appear to be breaking up far more often than those in the past, a wide-ranging government study has found.

And, in cases where a man ties the knot at an especially young age, the marriage becomes even more vulnerable.

The study, conducted by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), with data from the Department of Statistics, looked at the stability of resident marriages for different marriage cohorts from 1987 to 2012.

One key finding was that rates of marriage dissolution - annulments or divorces - among recent marriage cohorts had risen compared with those in the past.

By the 10th year of marriage, 16.1 per cent of those who married in 2003 had their marriages dissolved, double the 8.7 per cent for the 1987 cohort.

By the 15th year of marriage, a fifth of the 1998 cohort had their marriages dissolved, compared with 12.3 per cent of the 1987 cohort.

The study also found divorce rates of recent Muslim marriages had fallen.

While statistics on marriages and divorces are released annually, these usually track divorces by the year of the break-up, and not by the marriage cohort or the year the divorcing couple wed.

In the report released yesterday, the MSF wrote: "(The general divorce rate) does not track the outcome of marriages by marriage cohorts over time, and thus does not give a complete picture of the number of marriages ending in divorce."

Another key finding is that there are more dissolved marriages among younger grooms - those aged 20 to 24 when they wed.

Annual divorce statistics give a former spouse's age at the time of divorce, not the age when he wed.

The latest study found that divorce rates for younger grooms in non-Muslim marriages are twice that for grooms aged 25 and above, and the rates for younger grooms in Muslim marriages are 1-1/2 times that for older grooms.

Experts said there is now less social stigma attached to divorce.

Sociologist Tan Ern Ser said: "People are less bound by tradition and more inclined towards freedom of choice."

As for more marriages involving younger grooms being dissolved, experts said this could be because the husbands were less mature, and the result of problems linked to shotgun marriages.

Ms Cindy Loh, programme head at Care Corner Centre for Co-Parenting, said problems may arise when there is a baby but the young husband does not have a good job or enough money.

Sociologist Paulin Straughan agreed. "People expect men to be the head of the household and provide for the family. It is very difficult for couples not to care about public opinion," she said.

New programme to help couples
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 7 Apr 2015

The Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Programme will cover topics such as commitment, communication, conflict management and problem solving.

Marriage preparation programmes offer support and pre-marital counselling for couples tying the knot. For more details on the programmes provided, please visit
Posted by MSF Singapore on Thursday, May 14, 2015

It lasts 12 hours and is more comprehensive than the free two-hour introductory version which was introduced in December last year.

Both versions will be offered to couples.

More than 40 runs of the introductory sessions have been held, and more than 400 couples have attended them.

Recent Muslim marriages buck divorce trend
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 7 Apr 2015

WHILE divorce rates among recent marriages, in general, have been rising, those involving recent Muslim marriages, before the fifth year of marriage, have bucked the trend.

These divorce rates decreased from 14 per cent for the cohort that married in 2003 to 11.4 per cent for the 2008 cohort, according to findings from a study by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

In comparison, divorce rates before the fifth marriage anniversary for non-Muslim couples have remained about the same for the 2003 and 2008 cohorts, at 5.1 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.

The lower divorce rates for recent Muslim marriages may be a result of community initiatives in marriage preparation, as well as enrichment and counselling for Muslim couples, said the MSF in a statement yesterday.

Muslim couples looking to split up have to attend a mandatory counselling programme under the Syariah Court.

Since the programme started in 2004, more than 27,000 couples have taken part.

About 44 per cent of them changed their minds about breaking up after the counselling.

Marriage preparation programmes for Muslim couples have also been enhanced to address the needs of different types of marriages, including that of young couples and remarriages.

There are also support programmes for Muslim newly-wed couples and new parents to help them manage transitions and challenges in marriage, as well as public education efforts via print media, TV and radio dramas.

Mr Mohd Ali Mahmood, senior director of social services at voluntary welfare group PPIS, agreed that the community initiatives have helped.

He said marriage preparation programmes for minor couples, in which one of the partners is below 21, and the mandatory counselling programme for Muslim couples seeking divorce have helped.

"It is important that minor couples get the help they need, as they may lack the resources to make good decisions," he said.

He recounted a case of how a couple seeking divorce changed their minds after he counselled them about three years ago.

The wife felt that her husband was not fulfilling his role as a father and not playing with their child at all.

After counselling, they learnt the husband did not play with his child as he grew up in a family where he did not experience such love from his parents too.

"As women get more educated, they are less dependent on their husbands and more likely to consider divorce," Mr Mohd Ali said.

The husband was later willing to make amends and learnt to be a better parent.

Mr Mohd Ali added: "After couples get counselled, they realise that there are actually many things at stake.

"It's not just a dissolution of a marriage; it's the dissolution of a family with children."

More break-ups among poorly educated couples
Experts cite money woes and lack of interpersonal skills
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 20 Apr 2015

WHEN Fatimah (not her real name) went back to school to get a diploma and degree, little did she expect that the move would eventually lead to her marriage breaking down.

"As I upgraded myself, my perspectives and horizons shifted and my husband and I could no longer see eye to eye on important issues," said the 49-year- old regional administrator at a consulting firm.

For instance, he preferred their three children to work to supplement the household income once they were done with secondary school. She, however, wanted them to go on to tertiary education.

"Our thinking drifted farther and farther apart, and we chose to split when money and other issues came in," said Fatimah, who started out as a secretary with secondary school qualifications.

Today, the divorcee has a monthly pay of $6,500 - thrice that of her husband, a technician whose highest qualification is secondary school.

A Ministry of Social and Family Development report released two weeks ago showed that break-ups are more common if either spouse is among the lower-educated. It studied marriage cohorts from 1987 to 2012.

Among those who wed in 1998, for instance, 26.4 per cent of males and 25.3 per cent of females with below secondary school qualification annulled their union or divorced before their 15th anniversary. This is about twice that of those with university education.

Marital counsellors and divorce lawyers said that the less educated may have lower marital satisfaction because of greater economic pressures and poorer communication and interpersonal skills.

Said Ms Mabel Tan, senior partner at Joseph Tan Jude Benny LLP: "Those with lower qualifications usually quarrel over money but for the more educated ones, it tends to be over a third party or lack of time spent at home when they travel for work frequently." She cited a pending divorce between her client, a warehouse sales assistant and her technician husband, who both have secondary school qualifications. This was his third marriage and he was already supporting four children from his previous two marriages on his $2,400 salary.

"This is his third divorce, yet he has failed to see the same old issues cropping up again and again, from financial issues to his unreasonable attitude towards his spouses," said Ms Tan.

Ms Theresa Bung, principal therapist at the non-profit Family Life Society, said that such couples could be hard at work making ends meet and hence lack the time and energy to brush up on skills required for a strong marriage.

"They are less likely to attend talks or workshops if they are lowly educated and trying to survive on low pay," she said.

Family lawyer Lee Terk Yang said another reason could be that graduates are more selective, compared with non-graduates.

"The graduates may be more choosy and fussy about a partner and so when they do get married, those unions may last longer."

Counsellors said those with lower qualifications should attend marriage preparation or enrichment courses.

Ms Tan said: "They may need more hand-holding to walk through the scenarios that can crop up during marriage so that they do not simply react negatively when a crisis comes along."

Agreeing, Mr Lee said: "More premarital work will help them think through whether they are ready for the challenges of marriage."

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