Malaysian Family Well-Being Index Study, 2011

Background

Malaysia was, in the past few decades, and is still undergoing a process of rapid social and economic development. This is a result of policies implemented by the government such as the New Development Policy (1991-2000), National Vision Policy (2001-2010) and Government Transformation Programme (2010-2020) which all serve to transform Malaysia into a developed and competitive country. However, the daily grind of these processes has imposed increased demands on the family institution because of the responsibilities and the challenges faced by the family itself.

The family institution must be strengthened to offset the rapid process of social and economic development. This is important because the family is the basic social unit which prepares and supplies human capital resources for national development. Given the importance of family well-being to the future of the country, a scientific study needs to be conducted to measure the level of well-being of families in the country.

Measuring family well-being is crucial as it can indirectly measure the impact of the implementation of national social and economic development policies on families and the extent to which the implemented policies and programmes are successful or otherwise.

Hence, this study has identified relevant indicators that can provide information about the well-being of families in Malaysia. Subsequently, based on the identified indicators, a Family Well-Being Index (FWI) was developed to measure the current state of well-being of the family as well as for use in new policy formulation, planning for implementation of future research, the development of new programmes and services, and expansion of existing programmes.

Objectives

  • To build a set of indicators to measure family well-being;
  • To describe the state of family well-being based on the set of indicators developed;
  • To generate the Malaysian Family Well-Being Index; and
  • To propose recommendations to improve family well-being.
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Development Process of Family Well-Being Indicators

In the process of developing a set of indicators, this study used the three main approaches of literature review, focus group discussions (FGDs) and a pilot study. The literature review was performed on previous studies conducted from 1990 onwards. Based on the review, this study considered family well-being as a multi-dimensional concept that incorporates family relationships, family economy, family health, family safety, family and community, family and religion/spirituality, and housing and environment. The domains identified were discussed in two series of FGDs; the formal FGD consisted of academics, government agencies and non-governmental organisations, and the non-formal FGD consisted of selected members of the public. Responses from the FGDs that were transcribed, interpreted and validated with literature review formed the basis for updating the domains and indicators of the study.

The indicators were then tested in a pilot study conducted on 30 households from February to March 2011. Based on the results of the pilot study, several changes were made to the questionnaire including further refining the indicators used. As a result, in order to measure the well-being of families in this country, this study has identified a total of 24 indicators covering seven domains.

Figure 1: Domains and Indicators in the Malaysian Family
DomainIndicatorDomainIndicator
Family Relationshipsi. Parental involvement
ii. Family resilience
iii. Family functioning
iv. Time with family
v. Work-family balance*
vi. Husband/wife relationship *
vii. Parental relationship
Family and Communityi. Community cooperation
ii. Community relationship
iii. Community involvement
Family Economyi. Family living standards
ii. Family economic situation
iii. Future savings
iv. Debt burden
Family and Religion/ Spiritualityi. Role of religion
ii. Spiritual practice
Family Healthi. Family health practice
ii. Family health level
iii. Stress management
Housing and Environmenti. Basic amenities
ii. Pollution levels
Family Safetyi. Emergency response knowledge
ii. Safety at home
iii. Family safety
  

Note: * Not part of the FWI (Children) calculation.

Findings of the Family Well-Being Index Study

Respondents’ Profile

The study was conducted on 2,808 households involving a total of 5,616 respondents (a parent and a child from each household), consisting of 1,484 fathers, 1,324 mothers and 2,808 adolescent children aged 13 to 24 years. Selection of households in this study was with the assistance of the Department of Statistics using a stratified random sampling method and executed with face-to-face interviews.

The distribution of respondents was 62 percent of families living in urban areas with the majority of them being still married (93.2%). Of the families covered, 81.2 percent were nuclear families. These were followed by the extended families (14.8%), single-parent families (3.3%) and blended families (0.7%). Over 60 percent of the families covered were Malay followed by Chinese (28.3%), Indian (9.8%) and others (1.0%). Distribution of respondents by the total number of people in a family was 67 percent of families having four to six family members and more than 60 percent of these families having teenagers aged 13-15 years. In terms of household income, almost half of them had a household income not exceeding RM2,000 per month. Distribution of adult respondents according to their age showed that nearly half of them was in the range of 41 to 50 years (47.2%) while distribution of adolescent respondents was 45.6 percent aged 13 to 17 years and the remainder aged between 18 and 24 years.

Family Well-Being Index

Development of the Family Well-Being Index was focused on subjective well-being in which all respondents were asked to give assessments of certain aspects related to their family. The Family Well-Being Index uses the value of 10 as the maximum score. The higher the score obtained, the better the level of family well-being in the country. The Family Well-Being Index was obtained by averaging the score for all seven domains measured. Domain scores were obtained through the average score for all indicators in a domain.

Through this study, the Family Well-Being Index (Parents) was recorded at 7.55 out of a maximum score of 10. Of the seven domains identified, the Family and Religion/Spirituality domain recorded the highest score of 8.25. It was followed by the domain scores of Family and Community (7.83), Family Relationships (7.82), Family Safety (7.39), Family Health (7.38), Housing and Environment (7.28), and Family Economy (6.90). Interviews with teenagers aged 13 to 24 years resulted in a Family Well-Being Index (Children) of 7.70 out of a maximum score of 10. Of the seven domains identified, the Family and Religion/Spirituality domain recorded the highest score of 8.18. It was followed by the domain scores of Family Relationships (7.90), Family Safety (7.66), Family Economy (7.65), Family and Community (7.65), Family Health (7.61) and Housing and Environment (7.29). However, only the Family Well-Being Index (Parents) was used to represent the overall Family Well-Being Index.

Figure 2: Family Well-Being Score (Parents) by Domains and Indicators

Domain

Indicator

Indicator Score

Family Relationship

Parental involment

7.89

Family resilience

8.05

Family functioning

8.44

Time with family

7.35

Work-family balance

6.71

Husband/wife relationship

8.46

Domain Score

7.82

Family Economy

Family living standards

7.61

Family economic situation

7.54

Future savings

6.14

Debt burden

6.31

Domain Score

6.90

Family Health

Family health practice

6.98

Family health level

7.93

Stress management

7.23

Domain Score        

7.38

Family Safety

Emergency response knowledge

6.71

Safety at home

8.07

Family safety

7.39

Domain Score

7.39

Family & Community

Community cooperation

7.75

Community relationship

8.00

Community involvement

7.75

Domain Score

7.83

Family & Religion/ Spirituality

Role of religion

8.50

Spiritual practice

8.00

Domain Score

8.25

Housing & Environment

Basic amenities

7.53

Pollution levels

7.02

Domain Score

7.28

Family Well-Being Index (Parents)

7.55

 

Figure 3: Family Well-Being Score (Children) by Domains and Indicators

Domain

Indicator

Indicator Score

Family Relationship

Parental involment

7.83

Family resilience

7.93

Family functioning

8.28

Time with family

7.13

Parental relationship

8.35

Domain Score

7.90

Family Economy

Family living standards

7.69

Family economic situation

7.60

Domain Score

7.65

Family Health

Family health practice

7.63

Family health level

7.95

Stress management

7.24

Domain Score        

7.61

Family Safety

Emergency response knowledge

6.80

Safety at home

8.03

Family safety

8.15

Domain Score

7.66

Family & Community

Community cooperation

7.53

Community relationship

7.90

Community involvement

7.53

Domain Score

7.65

Family & Religion/ Spirituality

Role of religion

8.38

Spiritual practice

7.98

Domain Score

8.18

Housing & Environment

Basic amenities

7.56

Pollution levels

7.02

Domain Score

7.29

Family Well-Being Index (Children)

7.70

Conclusion

Based on findings of this study, the recommendations to improve the well-being of families in this country are as follows:

  1. Services and programmes that help families to be more resilient or more capable in dealing with current challenges should be expanded. Programmes such as these are akin to essential skill training to help individuals become more responsible parents, skilled and accomplished in managing the household and family. These also address other aspects of the family such as time that should be spent with family members, a healthy lifestyle, and balancing the demands of work and family.
  2. Financial support/assistance services, for example financial counselling, should be readily available and accessible to families facing financial challenges and difficulties.
  3. Community projects should be readily available and accessible, especially for those in urban areas in order to provide support, a sense of belonging and neighbourliness.
  4. Continued implementation of the study every three years with a larger scale of coverage in the future, the development of new intervention programmes and services as well as the expansion of existing intervention programmes

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