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Family and Kinship

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Malaysians-singaporeans/Judith Nagata

Most immigrants from Malaysia and Singapore who were not students arrived in family groups. Considerable emphasis is placed on family unity, discipline, and loyalty. A marked trend towards greater gender equality (including higher rates of employment for married women) is evident in Canada, although few women identify with feminism in the Western sense. Concern for their children’s education is a major preoccupation of most Malaysians-Singaporeans, and any sacrifices in income or job status that result from the move are considered an investment in the future. The children are frequently sent to private schools in Canada and also receive extra tuition. Canadian-born children, however, are often drawn more closely into non-ethnic peer networks and resist parental attempts to add heritage and other language classes to their studies. Intermarriage with other Canadians is uncommon, although, among younger members, marriages with Chinese of other origins appear to be on the increase.

The preference for most households in Canada is towards the nuclear family, even when they occupy a large suburban home. In most cases, grandparents are sponsored as family-class immigrants once the principal (usually male) income earner is established. They tend to be settled separately, despite the fact that working wives no longer enjoy the domestic help they were accustomed to in the homeland. Whether these residential arrangements are the cause or result of intergenerational tensions is not clear, but such friction is growing, despite family programs sponsored by the churches. The insularity of the family is offset somewhat by an informal network of other families from the home region. These groups provide crucial support, as well as recreational opportunities, by meeting frequently in each others’ homes or in restaurants.