Asia Fatherhood Research Conference Panel 3: Father-Child Relationships & Fathering Styles

In Research by Engagement


tree11The following summarises research presentations on Singapore, China and Taiwan, and distils relevant points for discussion and reflection in shaping fathering styles and promoting stronger father-child relationships.

The presentations were made at Panel 3: Father-Child Relationships & Fathering Styles as part of the first Asia fatherhood research conference entitled Fatherhood in 21st Century Asia: Research, Interventions, and Policies.

Notable Research Findings

Subjective Well-being and Attitudes Related to the Family and the Role of Families in Singapore, Dr Ho Kong Weng, A/P Ho Kong Chong, Ms Ong Qiyan

The presentation discussed the evolving role of fathers, their relationships with their children in Singapore, and its impact on their subjective well-being, life satisfaction and happiness, particularly in the context of the rising number of dual-income families.

The study leveraged on data from a survey of 400 pairs of parents and their teenage children in Singapore, conducted by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

The study found:

Although Singapore fathers desired to spend more time with their children, in reality, they were less involved than mothers.  While there was a recognisable shift in the culture of fatherhood, the actual conduct of fatherhood in Singapore still lags.

While 49% of mothers agree that “Having children is a lot of work and bother”, only 39% of fathers felt the same way, reflecting the limited involvement in parenting by fathers.

Fathers’ employment is not directly responsible for the weaker father to youth influence in life satisfaction.

Improved communication between fathers and youth and stronger father involvement improved fathers’ influence in youth’s life satisfaction.

The Analysis of Father-Child Relations of Only-Child Youths, Prof Feng Xiaotian

The presentation discussed the impact of China’s one-child policy and explored the differences in father-child relationship between families with only one child and children with siblings.

The study derives data from a sample survey of 2357 working youth in 12 cities in 2007, representative of the geographical and demographic diversity in China.  This study measured relations between urban working youths and their parents from five aspects:

  1. Conversation and communication between parents and offspring,
  2. Psychological support between parents and offspring,
  3. Mutual understanding between parents and offspring,
  4. Conflicts between parents and offspring,
  5. Youth’s overall assessment of the parent-children relations.

Key findings are discussed below:

No significant difference between father-child relationships in only-child families and multiple children families, with likely convergence due to socialisation of children in schools.

Clear task divisions between fathers and mothers in Chinese families persist, with fathers responsible for occupational, social and external roles, while mothers focus on familial and internal roles.

Father-child relationships in only-child families are not as intimate as mother-child relationships.

The Impact of Fathers’ and Mothers’ Parenting Styles on Children’s High School Academic Achievement in Taiwan, A/P Kuan Ping-Yin, Mr Wang Chihtsan

The presentation discussed the impact of Taiwanese fathers’ parenting styles and educational involvement on their children’s high school academic achievement in the context of intact families.

The study uses data gathered from the Taiwan Educational Panel Survey (TEPS) in 2001 and 2003 with a sample size of 9269 students.

Key findings are discussed below:

Fathering and mothering styles have the same three dimensions: behavioural control, inhibitive control and acceptance.  Behavioural control refers to parents’ concern for children’s daily routine and behaviours.  Inhibitive control refers to an aspect of psychological control over their children, including the limitation of self-expression and initiative.  The final dimension refers to parental acceptance of their children.

Fathers in Taiwan are less involved in adolescent parenting and educational involvement than their spouses.

When considering simultaneous father and mother involvement, the impact of fatherhood on adolescent children’s academic achievement is complicated.  While the father’s behavioural control has a negative effect on academic achievement, behavioural control has a positive effect on academic involvement and hence has an indirect positive effect on educational involvement.

Three unexpected findings were: (1) fathers’ parenting is found to be more directly influential than mothers’ parenting on children’s academic achievement, (2) fathers’ educational involvement has a negative relationship with mothers’ educational involvement but not vice versa, and (3) only father’s educational involvement has a positive impact on children’s academic achievement but not mother’s.

Child Care and Parenting Practices in Singapore: A Focus on Fathers, Shum-Cheung Hoi Shan

The presentation shared the findings from part of a larger study conducted by the Singapore Children’s Society to examine local child care and parenting practices, and children’s views on these practices.

Face-to-face interviews were conducted with each child and either the mother or father separately, with 530 parents (248 fathers and 282 mothers) and one of their children (261 boys and 269 girls) between the age of 10 and 12 participating.  The interview comprised structured questions that required quantitative and qualitative responses.

The study found that:

Mothers were usually main caregivers to children, despite the fact that more than half of the mothers in the sample were working mothers.  Even though females’ participation in the workforce has increased since 1980, mothers are still considered chiefly responsible for child care duties, and they perceive themselves to be so as well.

Grandmothers and paid workers figured more prominently than fathers as main caregivers at any age.  Fathers are involved in parenting but do not see themselves as preferred caregivers.

In general, Singapore parents are not as punitive as thought.  Fathers tended to use physical punishment less frequently than mothers did.

Plenary Discussion

One participant queried on possible methods to strengthen the bond between fathers and their adolescent children.  Dr Ho responded that fathers were interested in parenting, but continued to see themselves primarily as breadwinners.  He recommended that they look to their spouses to learn and develop methods to engage and bond emotionally with their children.

There was also significant discussion on the unexpected findings from the Taiwanese study on father involvement and academic achievement.  Prof Jean Yeung highlighted that in conducting such a study, it was important to consider the role and impact of fathers in the context of mother involvement as mothers continue to have a significant impact on child development.

Another participant queried if there was an optimal level for father involvement, given the complicated relationship between father involvement and academic achievement revealed in the Taiwan study.  A/P Kuan responded that the Taiwanese study focused on academic involvement only and it has revealed a complicated relationship to children’s academic achievement, thus it would be challenging to determine an optimal level for father involvement.


In the study of father-child relationships and fathering styles in Singapore, China and Taiwan, some commonalities emerge. Firstly, clear task divisions continue to exist between fathers and mothers, with mothers seen as the preferred caregivers despite the increase of females’ participation in the workforce.

Secondly, while the culture of fatherhood is changing, the actual conduct of fatherhood continues to lag, largely due to the perception of fathers’ primary role as breadwinners and fathers’ limited emotional engagement with their children.

Finally, it is important to consider how to improve fathers’ desire and confidence to be involved in parenting to ensure sustained father involvement in parenting and to develop more appropriate public policies to support father involvement.

  1. Ho, K. W., Ho, K. C. & Ong, Q. (2010). Subjective well-being and attitudes related to the family and the role of families in Singapore. Proceedings from International Conference on Fatherhood in the 21st Century Asia: Research, Interventions, and Policies, Singapore.
  2. Feng, X. (2010). The analysis of father-child relations of only-child youths. Proceedings from International Conference on Fatherhood in the 21st Century Asia: Research, Interventions, and Policies, Singapore.
  3. Kuan, P. & Wang, C. (2010). The impact of father’s and mother’s parenting styles on children’s high-school academic achievement in Taiwan. Proceedings from International Conference on Fatherhood in the 21st Century Asia: Research, Interventions, and Policies, Singapore.
  4. Shum-Cheung, H. S. (2010). Child care and parenting practices in Singapore: A focus on fathers. Proceedings from International Conference on Fatherhood in the 21st Century Asia: Research, Interventions, and Policies, Singapore.

About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

First published on 29-04-2011.