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Irene Y.H. Ng Troubled by financial and children troubles: psychological self-concepts of low-income parents in Singapore Social Work Social Development 2012 10 July 2012. Acknowledgements. Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports (MCYS)

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irene y h ng swknyhi@nus edu sg
Irene Y.H. Ng

Troubled by financial and children troubles: psychological self-concepts of low-income parents in SingaporeSocial Work Social Development 201210 July 2012


Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports (MCYS)

Community Development Councils

Research team:

Ho Kong Weng, Division of Economics, NTU

Alex Lee, Department of Social Work, NUS

Ngiam Tee Liang, Department of Social Work, NUS

Nesam Tharmalingam, Department of Social Work, NUS

today s presentation
Today’s Presentation
  • Poverty in Singapore
    • Socioeconomic and policy context
  • Theory: effects on and of parents’ self-concepts
    • Self-efficacy
    • Aggravation in parenting
  • Sample & methodology
  • Findings
  • Implications for working with low-income parents
poverty in singapore
Poverty in Singapore
  • Wage stagnation despite high economic growth
  • Widening inequality

=> Bottom earners of increasing concern

policy context
Policy Context
  • Limited effectiveness for many/majority of recipients
  • Why?
  • Poor families seldom struggle with ONLY financial woes
model of self concepts of low income parents

Children problems

Model of self-concepts of low-income parents

Increased difficult in sustaining work & meeting welfare requirements

  • Financial hardship
  • Diminished self-concept

Sample:754 parents with at least one child below 21 years oldat the start of Work SupportMar 2010-Jul 2011

work support
Work Support

Government financial assistance programme to help recipients find employment and achieve financial independence through interim financial support and other assistance

method linear probability regression
Method: Linear probability regression


Parents’ (a) self-efficacy & (b) parenting aggravation

self concept 1 self efficacy self mastery
Self-concept 1: Self-efficacy / self-mastery

“The extent to which people see themselves as being in control of the forces that importantly affect their lives” (Pearlin et al. 1980, Bandura 1982)

pearlin self efficacy
Pearlin Self-efficacy
  • No way I can solve some of my problems
  • Little control over things
  • Often feel helpless
  • Little I can do to change important things
self concept 2 parenting aggravation
Self-concept 2: Parenting aggravation

“Parenting stress that might result from changes in employment, income and other factors” (Panel Study of Income Dynamics 2010)

  • Adapted from Parenting Stress Index (Abidin, 1990)
aggravation in parenting
Aggravation in parenting
  • Being a parent is harder than I thought
  • I feel trapped by my responsibility as a parent
  • I find that taking care of my child(ren) is more work than pleasure
  • I often feel tired, worn out, or exhausted from raising a family
individual s characteristics
Individual’s characteristics
  • how many family members or relatives:
  • they heard from at least once a month,
  • felt at ease to talk about private matters, and
  • could call on for help.
  • Similarly for friends or neighbours
  • Scale: 0 – 5 (nine or more)
results no interactions
Results: No interactions

Standard errors in parentheses. * significant at 5%; ** significant at 1%

results with interactions
Results: With interactions

Standard errors in parentheses. * significant at 5%; ** significant at 1%

results another significant factor
Results: Another significant factor

Standard errors in parentheses. * significant at 5%; ** significant at 1%

Model without interactions shown, but results similar in model with interactions.

main findings
Main findings
  • Children’s health aggravated parenting.
  • Children’s difficult behaviour worsened parenting stress AND parents’ self-efficacy.
  • Family earnings did not relate to self-concepts. However, lower family earnings
    • amplified the effects of children’s difficult behaviour on parents’ stress and self-efficacy.
  • Social support from friends and family improved self-efficacy.
  • Cross-sectional => can’t conclude causality
  • limited effectiveness if recipients’ psychosocial barriers to financial independence not addressed
  • Case-management beyond financial monitoring
  • Case loads & case-management training
  • Integration of services
  • Supportive manner of case officer important
  • Targeted assessment and intervention
    • For families with difficult children and
    • on improving social support.

* Evaluation of these suggestions