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Singapore Government

MSF steps up efforts to encourage couples to attend Marriage Preparation Programmes

MSF steps up efforts to encourage couples to attend Marriage Preparation Programmes

Published On
06 Apr 2015

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will be rolling out a new marriage preparation programme called Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Programme (PREP) from May 2015. This twelve-hour programme is a more comprehensive version of the free two-hour “Introduction to PREP” which had been attended by more than 400 couples at the Registry of Marriages since beginning of this year (See Annex A).

Together with its community partners, MSF actively engages and encourages soon-to-weds to attend marriage preparation programmes to strengthen their marriage foundation. To help couples whose marriages may be more vulnerable, the Women’s Charter, has also made it compulsory, since 2011, for marrying couples where at least one party is a minor below 18 and requires a Special Marriage License, or where both parties are minors below 21 years old, to attend such programmes.

MSF, with support from the Department of Statistics, recently conducted a study on the stability of resident marriages over time and across different marriage cohorts (1987 to 2012). The rise in Singapore’s marriage dissolution rate is in line with similar trends in other developed countries. Singapore’s marriage dissolution rates generally remain lower than those in countries such as the UK and New Zealand. The study also revealed three key observations:

i. Marriage dissolution rates among recent marriage cohorts have increased compared to those in the past. Among those who married in 2003 (i.e. 2003 cohort), 16.1% had their marriage dissolved by the 10th year of marriage compared to 8.7% for the 1987 cohort.  By the 15th year of marriage, 20.3% of the 1998 cohort had their marriage dissolved compared to 12.3% of the 1987 cohort.

ii. There is a higher proportion of dissolved marriages among “younger grooms” who were aged between 20 and 24 years old. Divorce rates for younger grooms in civil marriages are twice as high compared to those aged 25 years and older. 33.0% of marriages involving younger grooms who married in 1998 ended in divorce before their 15th anniversary. Divorce rates for younger grooms in Muslim marriages were 1.5 times higher compared to older grooms. 39.1% of Muslim marriages involving younger grooms who married in 1998 ended in divorce by the 15th anniversary.

iii. Recent cohort Muslim divorce rates before the 5th year of marriage has bucked the uptrend.  These divorce rates decreased from 14.0% for the 2003 marriage cohorts to 11.4% for the 2008 marriage cohort. The improvement may be due to community initiatives in marriage preparation, enrichment and counselling for Muslim couples. Since the Marriage Counselling Programme for Muslim marriages began in 2004, more than 27,000 referrals were made. 44% of couples in the programme decided not to proceed with divorce. This supports research and feedback from marriage counsellors, which show that attending such programmes can improve relationship building skills and overall quality of relationship.

In light of the findings, MSF will step up outreach efforts to couples who have higher risks of divorce. This will help to strengthen the foundations of marriage for these couples.


Annex A: Measures to strengthen marriages

Civil Marriages

  • Since December 2014, MSF has started running a two-hour lunch time marriage preparation talk for couples getting married at the Registry of Marriages (ROM), called “Introduction to Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Programme (PREP)”.
  • PREP is an empirically informed and rigorously tested model based on over 30 years of research in the field of relationship health and has been implemented in over 12 countries. Developed by Dr. Howard Markman and Dr. Scott Stanley, research was conducted at the University of Denver in the United States. It targets both pre-marital and married couples, educating couples on how to communicate effectively, manage conflicts, preserve and enhance commitment and friendship between partners. 
  • Two versions of PREP will be offered to couples – a two-hour introductory course, as well as a comprehensive 12-hour workshop.

Introductory Course on PREP 

  • This is a two-hour seminar-style course that is designed to incorporate key principles and skills extracted from the full PREP workshop. 
  • Since December 2014, PREP introductory sessions have been held daily at the Singapore Registry of Marriage (ROM). Couples registering their marriage online were informed of these sessions and encouraged to participate. Over 40 sessions have been conducted to date, benefiting more than 400 couples.

Full PREP Workshop

  • MSF will roll out a 12-hour PREP workshop in May 2015, with qualified and trained Family Life Educators delivering the lessons. This 12-hour workshop will be carried out over a 2-day session, covering a total of 12 topics including communication, conflict management, commitment, and problem-solving. This workshop is available free-of-charge for the first 200 couples who sign up.
  • Couples who attended other MPPs supported by MSF can enjoy a $70 rebate. 

Muslim Marriages

  • Marriage Preparation Programmes have been enhanced to address the needs of different types of marriages, including minor marriages and remarriages.
  • Marriage enrichment and support programmes for newlyweds and new parents also help them manage transitions and challenges in marriage. Other upstream measures include public education efforts via print media, TV and radio dramas. These measures convey the importance of dedicating time and effort to nurture relationships, persevering through challenges, and seeking help early when problems arise.
  • Marriage Counselling Programme (MCP)1 provided by the Syariah Court in collaboration with 13 community partners for Muslim couples facing marital problems, to effect reconciliation and facilitate their access to national resources to further support their marriages. 


1 Since the inception of Marriage Counselling Programme for Muslim marriages in 2004, more than 27,000 referrals were made and 44% of the couples decided not to proceed with divorce.

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