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18 Jan 2007

TODAY newspaper


Thursday January 18, 2007

Lin YanQin


They're not particularly interested in politics, are divided right down the middle about premarital sex, and at least half feel that life is not complete without marriage and children.

About 800 young people, aged between 15 and 19, gave their views on various aspects of life in a study conducted over two months by students from Singapore Polytechnic (SP). And most of the results hardly came as a surprise to the students who carried out the survey.

Miss Tok Xiuzhi, for example, did not blink at the fact that only 29 per cent of the youths surveyed expressed interest in politics. "We're at an age where education is our priority," she said, adding that attitudes could change when more of those surveyed reached voting age. "Maybe it's not a matter for concern now because we live in a stable society."

Half of the young people surveyed found homosexuality acceptable.

On premarital sex, opinions were split firmly down the middle, with 45 per cent of the respondents disapproving of premarital sex and 46 per cent finding it acceptable. Those aged 20 to 29 were significantly more open to the idea, compared to younger ones aged 15 to 19.

Lecturer Kwa Lay Ping, who oversaw the survey, noted that the youths in Singapore appeared open-minded towards alternative lifestyles. "They're more liberal in their outlook and more accepting of alternative lifestyles, such as homosexuality, and sex before marriage," she said.

A comparison was made with a survey by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports in 2001, where 71 per cent of the young people surveyed found homosexuality unacceptable. In contrast, the SP survey revealed that 42 per cent found homosexuality unacceptable.

"As they go on the Internet, they're a lot more exposed to more liberal programmes about alternative lifestyles, than youths were in the days before the Internet," said Ms Kwa.

Still, some traditional social norms remain, with more than half the youths agreeing that marriage and children were essential to a complete life, and 32 per cent disagreeing - which caught the attention of the students. "It surprised me … because (I thought) the birth rate is decreasing and fewer people want to marry," said Ms Tok.

SP School of Business director Mr V Maheantharan felt that such surveys could be effective baselines for future projects, and useful information for marketers who are looking at consumer behaviour.

"We can return to it a few years later to see if any change (in attitudes) has taken place," he said.

For instance, youths' concern about the legality of downloads from the Internet have remained unchanged since the SP study on Internet use in 2004. "That's still an issue," said Mr V Maheantharan.

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This article was archived by Roy Tan.