Singaporean Culture


Primary Author
Nina Evason,

In cultures, such as Singapore, the family is the first a person joins at birth. The interests of the family are expected to supersede those of the individual and loyalty (such as preferential treatment) is shown to fellow family members. Families also have a collective . The act of an individual will impact the perception of the entire family by others. This is especially true of Chinese and Indian Singaporean households. They often make long-term plans to maximise the success and income of their entire household and family into the next generation. Meanwhile, Malay Singaporeans have tended to conceptualise family from a more perspective and usually see their household situations as temporary, not constant, continuing bodies. 

However, for all , the extended family has traditionally lived with the . The of the household has often been the father, with the mother’s role largely entailing domestic duties and caring for the children. Elders are consulted on all important family matters and parental control over children extends well into  adulthood.

In 2013, the Survey of Social Attitudes of Singaporeans showed that 90% of respondents believed they had close-knit families and 80% still maintained ties with extended family. However, in modern industrialised Singapore, the multigenerational family structure is difficult to maintain and the has become the predominant household structure. There has also been a significant increase in people living alone and couples deciding not to have children.

Within the household , both parents now usually share disciplinary power over their children, whereas previously it was largely the father. Young adults can also get married and move out of the home without parental permission, and all siblings have equal inheritance rights.

The average Chinese Singaporean family dynamic is still influenced by the Confucian organisation of relationships. Age is the overriding factor determining seniority in the household, with elders honoured for their wisdom in accordance with . The family is expected to care for them into their old age; however, with an ageing population and the younger generation growing more , demanding and bold, maintaining these values is a point of difficulty for Singapore. In 1996, the government passed a law mandating that children “assume financial responsibility for their elderly parents should the need arise”. But, this is difficult to achieve as the multigenerational family structure is on a steady decline.

Relationships and Marriage

Singaporean families often include a combination of different . Marriages between citizens and noncitizens, as well as cross- marriages, are becoming more common. The Singapore government has strict restrictions on sexuality and related issues. Pornography is entirely banned and many actions considered pornographic are illegal. For example, a person cannot be naked in a private place while being exposed to public view (e.g. it is illegal to be naked in one’s own home if others can see you).1

Social attitudes have traditionally been resistant to accepting LGBTQ identiities and relationships. In 2022, the Singapore government accounced it will repeal a -era law that criminalised sex between two men, which was previously punishable by up to 2 years in prison.2 While this will effectively make it legal to be homosexual in the city-state, there is still widespread opposition to same-sex marriage. The Singaporean Constitution defines marriage as a union between a man and woman alone.3


1 Miscellaneous Offences Act s27A
2 Wong, 2022
3 Chen, 2022

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