Attitudes to creating non-standard families, part 1

It was a small survey about attitudes to adoption and having children by persons who are single or not conventionally married (as per current Singapore law), but I think it will take me five articles to present the results.

That said, it’s not as if it is such a significant survey. It’s certainly not representative of Singaporeans as a whole since it was conducted on this blog alone, and only open to responses for three or four days. As I mentioned previously, the readership of this blog has certain demographic characteristics — being generally more liberal is one of them. And so, the results are only suggestive of what this segment may be thinking.

In Part 1, I present the data for all 470 responses. Parts 2 to 5 will show the results split by gender, marital status, sexual orientation and religiosity.

First a sketch of the demographic profile of respondents. 35% were female and 64% male. Two respondents said they were “transgender or other”.

40% were married (as recognised by current Singapore law), 58% were never married, while 2% were divorced or widowed.

As for age, see the table at right.

I also asked respondents to rate their sexual orientation and religiosity on a seven-point scale. I tried not to apply labels to them except at the polar ends. Here are the numbers:

The questionnaire can be recalled by clicking the thumbnail at right.

The nine questions largely plumbed attitudes to conventional adoption as well as some new reproductive technologies. It’s not a subject much discussed locally, particularly in relation to persons who aren’t conventionally married. But many here would nonetheless have heard of others using these technologies, for example footballer Christiano Ronaldo and singer Ricky Martin.

The pie charts below are all based on 470 responses.

The above statement in Q1 represented a “traditional” viewpoint. A slight majority disagreed with it. About a quarter agreed with it. but on the whole, views were quite mixed.

Artificial insemination is a technology that is now about 40 years old. And you can see the general acceptance among the responses. Three quarters did not think it was morally troubling.

In Q3, about 70% felt that it was quite OK for an unmarried person to consider having a child, given certain sensible conditions. This is one area we can discuss a lot more. The Singapore government laments that an increasing percentage of people are not getting married at all, but the authorities’ fertility angst is focussed only on married couples. What if singles were also encouraged to have children — assuming that social provisions are better provided, of course? Would that make some difference to our fertility rate?

Q4 opens the subject of surrogate pregnancy. I’ll admit I was expecting a more negative attitude. As it turned out slightly more than half said they generally had no concerns so long as it was on a willing buyer, willing seller basis. But then again, my readers are probably a liberal bunch. Still, if 25% of Singaporeans are liberal, and about half have no problem with surrogate pregnancy, we’re looking at at least 12 or 13% who are quite OK with it. Probably more, since some of the more centrist folks might also be OK with it.

This opens the door to male singles having children, like the above-mentioned Ronaldo and Martin.

At first glance, the pie looks similar to Q4, but survey participants understood the difference. In Q4, the baby is biologically related to the surrogate mother; in Q5 the baby is not. You see a slight increase in the percentage who are OK with surrogacy in Q5. I think people sense that it might be psychologically a bit less troubling if the baby is not related to the surrogate mother.

I threw in this question on a whim, but it shows that people don’t feel they need to hide the fact that a child is an adoptive one. Does this tell us something good about our society?

The question is actually similar to Q3, but the pie chart comes out differently. Why?

There is broad acceptance of the idea that adoption needs state regulation. No doubt the devil will be in the details. Some among us would want tighter controls while others (e.g. at least some of the light blue) prefer looser.

The fact is, for generations, children have been raised in non-standard households. Couples sometimes get divorced, or sadly, one spouse passes away. The concept of adoption is as old as humankind, sometimes informally by singles. I am somewhat surprised that three in eight persons say they don’t know anyone who was raised in a non-standard family. Is it because there really weren’t many in the previous generation, or because people see only what they want to see?

9 Responses to “Attitudes to creating non-standard families, part 1”


  1. 1 Charles 19 July 2012 at 07:34

    There are several points I see in this small survey:
    1 is that the readership of Yawning Bread is not based on sexual orientation and that people come here for more broad points than before, and this is good; as we once said, jokingly, but not too loud for fear of bankruptcy “Alex for Prime Ministry”.

    2 on Q7 there might be a fluke as I myself did a double take on it: some people might have answered on an unwrtitten “only if”, especially after reading Q8.

    3 on Q9 : it is not just being blind, many people in Singapore hide their separation/divorce from other people. It seems to be seen as something worse than homosexuality ( same plane as homosexual people ending up heterosexually married for social convention).

  2. 2 Anon 0av8 19 July 2012 at 08:42

    I just want to point out that Q7 and Q3 is actually different. Q7 is about adopting a child. Said child would likely be an orphan, either having been abandoned at birth, or lost both parents in some way (hence adoption, yes?) In Q7, I would say, the situation is more along the lines that even a single parent of low income (as long as no form of abuse is happening) is a vast improvement over being in an orphanage, or on the streets.

  3. 3 mr.udders 19 July 2012 at 18:08

    Alex- it just occurred to me that for question 6, you should have included one more question to further test the readers (for whatever info can be found, even though the question was asked on a whim).

    The additional question- “If I were to adopt, I would only adopt a child of the same race.”

    • 4 Peter Mak 19 July 2012 at 23:57

      That may introduce too many factors, as race, at least in Singapore, may tied to religion, and is especially tied to language, the latter in school at least.

  4. 6 ape@kinjioleaf 19 July 2012 at 21:09

    I was not thinking of adoption for Q3 as compared to Q7.
    Q8 very tough. I actually broke it down to 4 parts and asked myself which part I’m agreeable/not agreeable.

  5. 7 SS 20 July 2012 at 17:42

    Most people from non-standard family would normally not go around broadcasting it, as such most of their friends and acquiantances are not aware.

  6. 8 lobo76 24 July 2012 at 15:00

    Q9. Well, I answered in the negative, coz I don’t probe much…not my business and all that.

    Of those that I do know, well, they are still technically children (not adult). i.e. children of my relative.

  7. 9 lobo76 24 July 2012 at 15:07

    The main difference, that I perceived, between Q3 and Q7, is the economic status of the hypothetical person.

    Economically stable is much more positive than just having a steady job. Having a steady job can still have you living hand to mouth (lousy pay). Whereas, economically stable, means debts are paid and everything… more well off in comparison.

    Perhaps that is why more people are ‘for’ Q7 as compared to Q3. Just my guess.


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