Tag Archives: Letters to the Press

Fathers Deserve More Recognition

It’s commonly observed that Father’s Day celebrations tend to be quieter and simpler than for Mother’s Day. At times, fathers are even thought of as being helpful, but not critically necessary.

On the contrary, fathers should be given more recognition, at least for the following reasons:

  • The cost of father absence to the community is estimated to be over AUD$12 billion per year in Australia, while the U.S. government spent at least US$99.8 billion providing assistance to father-absent families in 2006.
  • Close to 90 studies published in the last decade highlight the importance of father involvement, based on the 2013 review by The Fathering Project at the University of Western Australia.
  • In a review of 36 studies from around the world (beyond the Western context), it has been concluded that a father’s love is at least as important, if not more, to youngsters as their mother’s.

Taken together, recent research about fatherhood has provided new insights about the critical and distinctive roles played by fathers, and the significant long-term impact they have on the social, cognitive, emotional and physical well-being of children.

Research suggests that fathers’ impact on kids’ behaviour begins as early as infancy. Mothers tend to keep their babies calm, gazing at them, babbling together and affectionately touching them. Fathers tend to get the babies more excited and laughing, often playing physical games that arouse or startle them. Fathers contribute most to providing play exploration which helps to develop emotional and behavioural self-regulation, while mothers tend to be the providers of comfort in times of distress.

Father involvement has been linked to fewer behavioural problems among school-age children, less delinquency among teenage boys and fewer psychological problems in young women.

Fathers play an integral role in children’s socialization. The time that teenagers spent with fathers in the presence of others was linked to increased social competence; the same effect was not observed with mothers. Paternal support tends to be associated with social competence in the school setting while maternal support is associated with academic competence.

Fathers also make unique contributions to teen development. From measures of 60 potential links between parental factors and teen outcomes in a longitudinal study, 20% were unique to fathers. Fathers’ influence on alcohol and illicit drug use in youths may be stronger than that of mothers. Father absence is a critical contributor to adolescent sexual risk behaviour in both sons and daughters. A study of Thai youth found that youth who have a close relationship with their father are less likely to initiate premarital sex during adolescence.

In summary, there is compelling evidence that fathers are irreplaceable and their distinctive parenting style complements mothers in significant ways for the healthy development of children.

What fathers do with their children on a day-to-day basis makes a great difference not only to their children, but also to society and for the generations to follow. This Father’s Day, let’s make special effort to affirm and honour fathers among our midst!


Dads for Life. (n.d.) Where Do Fathers Stand in Shaping Healthy Teen Sexuality. Retrieved from http://pruitttad461.typepad.com/blog/2012/02/where-do-fathers-stand-in-shaping-healthy-teen-sexuality.html

Macrae, F. (2012, 13 June). How Absence of a Loving Father Can Wreck a Child’s Life: New Study Shows Relationship with Both Parents Is Crucial. Daily Mail. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2158671/Love-father-contributes-childs-development-mother-study-claims.html

Mitchell, P.J., (2013, August 21). The Unique Benefits of Fatherhood. [A review of Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Perspectives] eReview Vol. 13, No. 16.  Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. Retrieved from http://www.imfcanada.org/issues/unique-benefits-fatherhood

Nock, S.L. & Einolf, C.J. (2008). The One Hundred Billion Dollar Man: The Annual Public Costs of Father Absence. National Fatherhood Initiative. Retrieved from http://www.ct.gov/dcf/lib/dcf/fatherhood/pdf/fatherabsencecost.pdf

Shellenbarger, S.(2011, June 14). The Secret of Dads’ Success: How Fathers’ Teasing, Tickling, Wrestling Teach Kids to Whine Less and Be More Independent. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved fromhttp://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304665904576383464255980534?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702304665904576383464255980534.html

The Fathering Project (n.d.). About the Fathering Project. Retrieved from http://thefatheringproject.org/about-the-fathering-project

Wood, L. & Lambin, E. (2013). How Fathers and Father Figures Can Shape Child Health and Wellbeing. The University of Western Australia. Retrieved fromhttp://thefatheringproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/How-fathers-and-father-figures-can-shape-child-health-and-wellbeing-Wood-Lambin-UWA-2013.pdf


Be a Plugged-In Parent

The online world is a huge part of life; parents need to teach values-based media discernment at different ages and stages of a child’s life. We sent a letter to the press on the need for parental involvement when it comes to digital media, and it was published today. Here’s a copy of the letter.


We agree and support MDA’s stance that public education and parental supervision remain the key tenets of addressing harmful media influence (“ISPs may have to offer free Net filtering tools to broadband, mobile subscribers”, Apr 21).

We welcome parental control services at the ISP level as an additional layer of protection for multiple devices, and especially for young children who accidentally stumble onto harmful sites. However, content is just one risk factor. There are other potential risks that parental control services may not address, namely:

  • Contact: safeguarding against someone online who may bully or abuse
  • Conduct: monitoring the online behavior of one’s child
  • Commercialism: avoiding the onslaught of commercial marketing, data collection and online advertising

The online world is a huge part of life for many – adults and children alike. Children are increasingly more IT-savvy than their parents and the chances of bypassing parental control services by simply accessing a friend’s device is high. Short of bubble-wrapping our children or cutting off their access to all media, parents need to teach values-based media discernment at different ages and stages of a child’s life.

Apart from partnering schools and workplaces to provide “Plugged-In Parenting” education, Focus on the Family has partnered with the Media Literacy Council to develop a media discernment booklet that was distributed to parents through all primary one students. Yet we acknowledge that more still needs to be done to step up media literacy for both parents and children.

Parental control tools are just that – tools. The onus still lies on parents to set and teach boundaries, and keep the conversation going with their child while imparting values like self-control and moral responsibility to help them navigate new media.

Make Marriages Stronger, Not Divorce Easier

We strongly believe in the importance of marriage, so when we heard that a panel is trying to find ways to make divorce less adversarial, we decided to speak up – because the focus should be on making marriages stronger.

Here’s a copy of the letter we sent to Straits Times.


We refer to the article Panel Moots Ways to Make Divorce Less Adversarial (The Straits Times, April 17, 2014). It is heartening that one of the key recommendations of the Family Justice Committee is to enhance social support services and integrate them with the family courts system.

However, more should and can be done to preserve marriages and help families thrive.

While we agree that children need to be protected from their parents’  acrimonious legal tussle in a divorce, we have to admit that the act of divorce itself already has negative effects on the innocent children involved. Literature and research show that not only are the repercussions of divorce on children broad and strong, marital problems tend to perpetuate down the family line, with longitudinal data revealing that grandchildren of divorced couples end up with less education, more turbulent marriages and more distant relationships with their parents. In protecting children from the impact of divorce, we need to place the emphasis on prevention and intervention of troubled marriages rather than on improving the efficiency of the divorce process.

Majority of the counseling cases we see at Focus on the Family are for marital issues. Thankfully, we have had the joy of helping some acrimonious marriages turn around. There is always hope, especially where there is a willingness to change and a commitment to work things through.

In a number of countries, less than 10% of marital breakdown occurs in high-conflict marriages, where one or both spouses are at risk due to some form of abuse (eg, alcohol, drug, sexual, physical, emotional, mental). This poses the question if the majority of divorces in Singapore are occurring in low-conflict marriages, where counseling and assistance could bring about positive change. If so, we should focus our efforts on offering solutions to help couples heal and reconcile, perhaps  even  making marriage counseling mandatory prior to starting divorce proceedings.

Time and again, we’ve witnessed the age-old truth that the best gift a parent can give their child is to love their spouse. Let’s continue to emphasize making marriage stronger, and not divorce easier!

HPB’s Sexuality FAQs – More Balance Can Help More

February 14, 2014

We appreciate the Health Promotion Board’s efforts to help the public better understand homosexuality and bisexuality through their website.

In the past 12 years that Focus on the Family Singapore has dealt with sexuality, we can testify to the complexity and sensitivity of the topic. Admittedly, views are diverse and the science is not conclusive with regards to the cause of homosexuality and whether one’s sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, it is hard to separate the issue from morality because while sex is a private matter, it can have implications beyond self to society at large. We presume this is why HPB took it on as a public health issue.

As an organization dedicated to helping families thrive at different stages of life, we would like to propose a more comprehensive and balanced presentation of facts and science. For example:

  • The FAQs correctly state that homosexuals can have long-lasting relationships, and could have further mentioned that while this is possible, the likelihood of it is low. One study reported that 95% of homosexuals do not stay with the same partner for more than 20 years. Another study found that men with a steady partner had an average of 8 other sexual partners per year.
  • The FAQs correctly state that anyone who actively engages in unprotected sexual activity is at risk of being infected with sexually transmitted infections, and could have included the statistics that shows homosexuals to be 40 times more likely to contract HIV than heterosexuals. The Independent recently published that STI rates amongst gay men have reached ‘crisis’ levels, despite UK being a liberal, pro-gay society where gays are more accepted than in the past.

The HPB FAQs can be an even more helpful resource for all who seek to understand their and their loved ones’ sexuality, if a more balanced approach is taken through provision of comprehensive and accurate facts.

Lastly, we agree that parents should encourage their children who might be struggling with their sexual orientation to share their feelings with someone knowledgeable about sexuality. Focus on the Family has a counselling team trained to deal with sexuality and gender issues, as well as sexuality programs and various resources targeted at youth and at parents to equip them to communicate with their children on this topic. We look forward to partner with HPB in this area.


Joanna Koh-Hoe
CEO, Focus on the Family

Living with Partner Before Marriage Diminishes Marital Success

February 11, 2014

The recent Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) survey shows that about one-third of those surveyed consider living with a partner before marriage “not wrong most of the time” or “not wrong at all” (“S’poreans Against Sex Outside Marriage: Poll Finding”; Jan 29).

This opinion probably stems from the belief that living together is a good way for a couple to test their compatibility and predict marital success or failure. By and large, women are more likely to see their cohabitating relationship as a conveyor belt eventually leading to marriage. Guys, on the other hand, are more likely to see their cohabiting relationship as the opportunity to see each other more often, have fun together, make sure he feels taken care of, and gain access to more regular sex.

Though cohabiting couples might hope to eventually marry, they are less likely to do so in reality and are more likely to give up on their relationship when the going gets tough.

In fact, studies have shown that only about 40 per cent of cohabiting couples actually marry. Of those that do, they are more likely to have poorer communication, lower marital satisfaction and ultimately, a 50 to 80 per cent greater risk of divorce.

Instead of living with a partner before marriage to test-drive the relationship, it would be more helpful in the long run for couples contemplating marriage to participate in a structured marriage preparation program. This will equip them to enter into the lifelong commitment of marriage with skills to improve communication, resolve conflict, handle finances and manage expectations, that will inadvertently lead to an overall improvement in the quality of a marriage relationship.

Mrs Dinah Lee-Phua
Head – Research & Development
Focus on the Family Singapore

Reflections on Family Bonding

January 13, 2014

Recently, two generations of a Lim family renewed their marriage vows (Saying ‘I do’ for the third time in 62 years of bliss, Jan 2) at a vow renewal ceremony. The commitment of the senior Lims to each other is indeed an inspiring example for us to follow.

I have been married for 28 years and as a family, we have weathered the storms of life’s disappointments and danced together during times of jubilation. Love and faithfulness have been the fundamental glue in our commitment to this marriage.

It is heartening that our government is making special efforts to commemorate Family through activities and campaigns throughout the year. Even as we celebrate families as a nation through these initiatives to commemorate United Nation’s International Year of the Family’s 20th anniversary, let’s also take the time to deliberate on areas in our marriage or family life that we would like to improve on.

If your marriage needs a boost, consider attending a marriage enrichment program. If you are facing some difficult marital issues, consider going for counseling sessions. Let your marriage last your lifetime, just like the Lims’. If you are a supervisor at work, you can discuss with your staff if there is any work arrangement to help enhance their family life without compromising on productivity. You may be surprised at some of the innovative work arrangements your staff can propose to everyone’s advantage.

It’s not too late to focus on your family – make the effort to celebrate your family this year if you haven’t already been doing so, or restart if you’ve stopped for some reason. Remember the many activities and programs lined up to help you kick-start your resolution!

Mr Lim Yu Ming
Executive Director
Focus on the Family Singapore

Grow Your Affection for Each Other

November 13, 2013

In response to Li Dan Yue’s letter “How to make marriages work” (Nov 8) and Ada Chan Siew Foen’s “Address reasons behind failed marriages” (Forum Online; Oct 30), one of the key reasons for weak, failing and failed marriages is the lack of affection between a couple. This can often drive couples to look for affection outside of their marital relationships.

If we want to safeguard and strengthen our marriages, we need to understand that affection for each other does not appear automatically but must be developed over time with tender loving care.

Happily married couples often say that one of the key ingredients to success in their relationships is the strong friendship between them. If you find that there is a lack of affection in your marriage, work on areas that will strengthen your friendship with each other. If you have issues in your marriage, discuss about them openly and remember not to talk behind each other’s backs.

It is important not to sweep any unresolved anger between the two of you under the carpet. If you are unable to resolve your issues on your own, do seek assistance from a professional marital counsellor. Spare no effort to develop and consistently nurture a best-friend relationship with your spouse.

You must also address your own needs and your spouse’s needs for affection. None of us are ‘affair-proof’ but when your affection needs are met by each other, you will naturally strengthen your resolve to stay faithful to your spouse and be less vulnerable to seeking out an affair.

Finally, if you find yourself in an ‘affection-starved’ marriage, it will help to set very clear boundaries in your professional and social relationships. Remember that even if your spouse is comfortable with your friendship with a particular person of the opposite sex, it pays to carefully evaluate the emotional condition of that person and check if he or she has any unmet needs and desires that could be a set-up for an unwanted affair between the two of you.

There is always hope for our marriages to work out, but we do need to work very hard at building and strengthening our marriages. Couples who have stayed happily married for the long-haul and stuck by each other through the good times and the bad have gained much more than they have lost.

Lee Sue-Ann
Content Specialist (Marriage)
Focus on the Family Singapore