Money, commuting time and poor social skills taking a heavy toll on Thai families

Money, commuting time and poor social skills taking a heavy toll on Thai families
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Many Thai families no longer have time for each other nor do they have warm relationships, due to financial struggle and overly long journey time to and from work.

Many suffer from debt and reportedly lack goals to boost family ties and stability.

Smartphone chat links like "Line" have become a way to connect family members and keep them together.

These are some of the grim findings of a recently revealed "Thai Urbanised Family 2014" research.

The study was organised by the Rakluke Learning Group (RLG), the Thai Health Promotion Foundation and the Family Studies Association. It was conducted through face-to-face interviews with 2,040 breadwinners living in 11 cities and the focus group method to cover in-depth study of interesting points raised.

The goal of the research was to get a clear image of lifestyle, attitude and behaviour of Thai families in city areas and develop a body of knowledge and raise public awareness of the issue.

The study found economic struggle remained a major factor - affecting Thai families' wellbeing, relationships, financial status and care of elderly members, RLG research centre head Supaporn Korwanichakul said.

Most people didn't understand family roles or how to be a strong family; a third of respondents |said they were unsure if they had taken proper care of their families, she said.

This was because many lacked social links to learn from good models and an education system - while city folks' isolated lifestyle meant a lack of community interaction.

Twenty per cent didn't have a shared family goal, mainly due to a lack of time (30 per cent) because they were busy making a living, Supaporn said.

Sixty per cent of respondents with shared family goals were focused on financial matters - not other matters such as raising children and providing education, family saving, or preparing for old age, the study said.

Some 30 per cent of respondents misunderstood that if they didn't have children or the kids had already grown up, the families no longer needed to set goals.

City dwellers' family ties were shaky, the study said. The problematic situations cited were: a lack of conversation due to lack of trust (40 per cent); coercion (60 per cent); family members not rational when solving a problem (33 per cent); verbal, mental abuse or abandonment (34 per cent); physical abuse (11 per cent).

Such problematic ties also led to family members' lack of desire to set shared family goals or to share common activities. Five per cent of respondents said their families had absolutely no common activity - half of this group cited the reason as "no time."

However, the most cited common activity among families was having a meal together (82 per cent), followed by watching a movie together (59 per cent) and spending a special occasion or holiday (52 per cent), the study said. Although family life was overwhelmingly linked to economic struggle, two thirds of the families said they had "moderate" to "low" knowledge about financial management due to lack of time to learn and the notion that money matters were complex.

Thirty per cent of city families had no savings, and 65 per cent had debts.

The researchers recommended; the promotion of family education, active ageing, and financial literacy; a cut in journey time by improving quality of near-home schools and improving public transport for accessibility and an appropriate fare; and setting up public spaces and family centres.

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