Financial stress and parental absence doubly challenge low-income single-parent households (Wong et al., 2004). Consequently, Singaporean adolescents reared in single-parent households have lower levels of long-term education, economic, and marital outcomes (Ministry of Social and Family Development, 2020). 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 (Kwan, 2021). Some of these trends are also observed globally (Lindstrom et al., 2019; Neves et al., 2019). 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 theory (Coleman, 1988), family systems theory (Cox & Paley, 1997), and ecological theories of human development (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006), this study examined the relationships between social capital 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. Social capital was defined by levels of social relationships and networks and were organized based on bonding ties, bridging ties, and linking ties (Field, 2016; Widmer, 2010). Parental and adolescent well-being were measured by life satisfaction (Bowen & Jensen, 2017) and flourishing (Diener et al., 2010).
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.
Conclusions and Policy/Practice Implications:
Understanding the variation of social capital in relation to parental and adolescent well-being in Singapore can result in knowledge about how and why some low-income single-parent households cope better than others. Identifying resilience-promoting factors and processes within the broad household/family structure of single parenthood can also inform beneficial social welfare and policy interventions (Letiecq, 2019; Murry & Lippold, 2018; Sanner et al., 2020). The study is also consistent with advocacy efforts to reduce prejudice and/or discrimination against low-income single-parent households in Singapore (Brownstein, 2017; Glendinning et al., 2015). Finally, knowledge of why and how some households cope better than others can help social workers improve social welfare and policy programs designed for single parents and their adolescents.