NUS: Old Bonds, New Ties 2018

By | November 5, 2018

NUS: Old Bonds, New Ties 2018

Old Bonds, New Ties: Understanding Family Transitions in Re-partnerships, Remarriages and Stepfamilies in Asia

Date: 19 Nov 2018 – 20 Nov 2018
Venue: AS8 Level 4, Seminar Room 04-04
10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
National University of Singapore @ KRC

The challenges of sustaining an economically productive population amidst declining marriage and fertility rates and an ageing population has seen Asian societies bolstering the institutions of marriage and the family ideologically and nation-states concomitantly implementing a wide variety of family-oriented policies. The dominant emphasis on a decontextualized nuclear family, however, has distorted experiences of alternative family structures and understandings of them, particularly in the case of stepfamilies, which closely resemble conventional first-time families but deal with more complex family transitions such as a prior couple dissolution and re-partnership/remarriage. In public discourses in Asia, traditional values have reinforced the stigma around re-partnering and the dangers associated with it including the abuse of children in stepfamilies. Yet, in other instances, re-partnerships and remarriages are sought as a pragmatic option to overcome dire economic conditions and family instability, and reintegrating into mainstream society. Despite its increasing prevalence, particularly over the last two decades, scholarship on re-partnerships, remarriages and stepfamilies in Asia remains limited and underdeveloped.

Do re-partnerships and remarriages necessarily entail the creation of new kinship ties? Does divorce signal the rupture of family bonds or only the death of a legal relationship? How do the simultaneous existence of ‘old’ bonds and ‘new’ ties in blended families reshape the family? Insights into understanding re-partnerships, remarriages and stepfamilies could on one hand, empirically and conceptually account for shifts in family processes in terms of individual well-being outcomes, intra and extra-familial relationship dynamics as well as inform law, public policy, while on the other, illuminate the relevance of locating these changes within culturally specific contexts of collectivism, communitarianism and familism in Asia. In so doing, it challenges dominant notions of familial relationships as ‘natural’, ‘private’ or ‘universal’ and acknowledge the family as a site of social and political intervention and transformation that engenders social and economic inequality in society. Moreover, it also helps push theorizing beyond a simplistic binary view of family units as either valued resources or deficits. A cross-cultural or cross-national comparison would be vital in understanding differences in remarriage and stepfamily patterns and dynamics not just between Asian and Western contexts but also within Asia where broader social categories including class, race and gender, religion and historicity intersect and (re)produce differentially resourced families and individuals in various national contexts.

This two-day conference features work on re-partnership, remarriage and stepfamilies across societies in East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia using quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods approaches. The selected empirical papers will aim to conceptualize notions of family change through re-partnering and stepfamily formation within the Asian context by examining the following topics:

  • Adult and children well-being outcomes (i.e. physical, cognitive, emotional, educational)
  • Transitions in family processes – changes in familial relationships, caregiving, family roles and family boundaries
  • Socio-cultural attitudes
  • Social support amongst extra-familial institutions and actors
  • Role of the state, laws and public policies
  • Impact of demographic transitions including migration, declining marriage and fertility rates etc.


Admission is free, and seats are available on a first come, first served basis. Please email to to indicate your interest to attend the conference.


Conference Convenors

Dr Lavanya Balachandran
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
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Prof Yeung Wei-Jun Jean
Asia Research Institute, Centre for Family and Population Research, and Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore
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Ms TAY Minghua
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
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Minghua TAY