The project is the first academic longitudinal study on how multi-stressed low-income families in Singapore adapt to extreme financial constraints. While studies conducted by economists typically underscore the risks of poverty to the families and the potential danger of social instability if income divide remains unchecked, this study adopts an innovative approach to studying low-income families by looking not merely at the risks of poverty, but the strengths of their adaptive behaviour as well.
The study will refine the understanding of such families by distinguishing trajectories of adaptive capacities, so that policies and interventions can be more targeted in their areas of support. The findings of the study also has the potential to inform social policies and programmes, such that they move away from problem-focused interventions to human capacity building by tapping into the strengths and capacities of low-income families.
The team is still in the process of doing a data analysis and write-up on the findings. Based on the published papers, the key findings include:
- Children’s voices are rarely heard in the social work assessment process, with their opinions often missing in decisions made about their lives. The findings of this project show evidence that vignettes – using carefully crafted stories – seem to enable access to children’s viewpoints regarding sensitive topics and provide insights on how they construct solutions to daily problems. This finding proposes vignettes as potentially useful tools that can enhance social work assessment, providing an avenue for children to be heard.
- Current research found that economic hardship is associated to lower hope in adults. However, there are lack of studies investigating family-level hardiness as a potential mediator of the impact of economic hardship. 512 mother-child dyads from low-income families were surveyed. The inability of low-income families to adapt and reorganise their family system to their economic situation could account for the lowered hope in mothers. Children’s hope on the other hand is affected by economic hardship mediated by the entire family’s level of hardiness.