Five years of family and population research

10 April 2019 | General News
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Mr Lee (3rd from left) joins in the cake-cutting session with Prof Yeung (2nd from right), CFPR Co-Director Prof Catherine Tang (far left), NUS Arts, Social Sciences Dean Prof Robbie Goh (2nd from left) and members of the CFPR Steering Committee

The Centre for Family and Population Research (CFPR) at NUS Arts and Social Sciences celebrated its fifth anniversary on 5 April. Attended by Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, the Centre took the opportunity to reflect on its key milestones as well as share ongoing projects and future plans.

“Today, Singapore faces the toughest challenges in family and population issues, like many other countries in the world. Family processes and population dynamics are so intimately intertwined to affect all domains of human life — economic, social, cultural, political — that examining both areas together allows us to most productively appreciate the trends and understand the causes and consequences to society’s development and individual’s well-being,” said Professor Jean Yeung, Co-Director of CFPR and NUS Sociology Provost’s Chair Professor.

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Prof Yeung introducing Mr Lee to some of the projects the Centre conducts

The Centre has secured more than $11 million in competitive external grants over the years for conducting research in areas such as changes in families, ageing, family dynamics, vulnerable population, bilingual practices and social media behaviour.

It has also acted as a platform and catalyst for researchers from multiple disciplines to collaborate on family and population research, by building a vibrant network and starting many projects, shared Prof Yeung. One of the ongoing projects is the Singapore Longitudinal Early Development Study which studies data from 5,000 Singaporean children aged six and below, investigating how their cognitive and social-emotional development has been shaped by factors such as family, childcare and early education institutions, community and the state. Other projects look at behavioural addictions of Singapore adolescents, factors leading to healthy family function in young parents, childhood bilingualism, as well as big data analyses on consumption behaviour and student academic success.

Today, Singapore faces the toughest challenges in family and population issues, like many other countries in the world. Family processes and population dynamics are so intimately intertwined to affect all domains of human life — economic, social, cultural, political — that examining both areas together allows us to most productively appreciate the trends and understand the causes and consequences to society's development and individual's well-being.

In his speech, Mr Lee said that a deeper understanding of demographic and family trends, together with a more holistic understanding of the challenges that families face, will benefit policymaking. He outlined three key areas where he sees scope for increased collaboration between researchers and policymakers — ageing families, transnational families and divorce. “Research plays an important role in helping us formulate more informed policies that result in better outcomes for families and society. Robust research can help us anticipate what might work better, and what policies might not work so well. It can also help us identify blind spots and emerging needs, so that policies can be adjusted quickly. Robust research can also support mature and informed public discussion on social issues that we face together as a society,” Mr Lee added.

Over the five years, CFPR has consulted with various ministries on policies relevant to issues including ageing, marriage and fertility, early child development, young adult development and social mobility in Singapore. It has also organised two high-profile international conferences, more than 100 lectures and seminars, and provided training in social science research methods to about 500 participants from various ministries, statutory boards, universities and other sectors.

In commemoration of their fifth anniversary, the Centre unveiled a bilingual book titled Family and Population in Asia. The collection of 30 articles written by CPFR research associates since 2016 was edited by Prof Yeung and NUS Japanese Studies Associate Professor Thang Leng Leng. Targeted to be launched between late May and early June, it covers areas such as family change, marriage, fertility, gender roles, elderly care, and social network and consumption.

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The new book will be launched between late May and early June