In a clear nod to the academic rigour and quality of our research work, Singapore Children’s Society’s Research Unit’s findings on children’s social support were featured in a symposium at the prestigious Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) 2021 Biennial Meeting.

The meeting was hosted virtually from 7 to 9 April 2021 and was attended by 6,500 delegates from around the world.

The symposium was chaired by Dr Cheung Hoi Shan, who is also a Children’s Society Research Committee member. Titled ‘Children in Adversity: Social Support for School Bullying, Cumulative Risks and the COVID-19 Pandemic’, it highlighted how the various support systems in a child’s life can come together to help children overcome adversity.

The Research Unit presented findings from three studies.

Senior Research Officer Ms Jerrine Khong shared findings from our recent study on children’s experiences with bullying. In the study, we surveyed 570 children aged nine to 13 years old, as well as their caregivers, and found that about 30 per cent of the children had been victims of bullying. The first person that these participants turned to was usually a peer or parent, and telling someone made things better for about three-quarters of them. These findings highlight the importance of training peers to be active bystanders, and that closer home-school coordination may help address bullying.

The second study, presented by Research Officer Ms Toh Sze Min, surveyed 270 children aged 10 to 15 years old, as well as their caregivers, on the types of social support that protected children from the negative impact of stressors. Among the eight types of social support, only three types – reliable assistance, emotional support, and guidance support – buffered the negative impact of stressors on children. This suggests that social service agencies, schools, and community members could put more focus on connecting children to these three types of social support.

The third study, presented by Assistant Director Dr Charlene Fu, looked at what children shared on the Tinkle Friend online chat during the COVID-19 Circuit Breaker and immediately after. An analysis of 92 chats that took place between April and July 2020 revealed difficulties in accessing social support due to limited access to friends, teachers, and school counsellors during the school closures. Children also experienced conflict at home because parents were more stressed out, and because of the trouble they had with school and keeping up with friends.

More details on the Tinkle Friend study will be shared in our July issue of Research Bites.