What constitutes a happy family? It's a question that every generation struggles with. Maybe an answer is in sight: the recently launched Joyful Family Nurturing Centre hopes to find some clues to fostering contentment in the home.
"The number of single-parent, cross-border or weekend-parent families is increasing. Each type of family faces unique problems. We want to study what causes the trend and what measures can be taken to help those families," says Wan Wai-lan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong Central Youth Service, which set up the centre in October.
"The traditional family system is crumbling," Wan adds. "Kids growing up with the digital revolution often lack respect for their elders. At the same time, parents face growing work pressure and devote less time to their kids. They are more concerned about youngsters' academic achievement than their emotional well-being."
The centre aims to help promote the culture of family by, for example, offering courses on how to raise happy children.
A recent survey of families from different socio-economic backgrounds by the centre found that low-income families were happier than high-income ones.
Lee Man Yuk-ching, an assistant professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, says low-income families tend to be more satisfied with life and have more time to communicate with each other.
"Many middle-class families have two parents working full time in stressful jobs. [Their children] do not lack material goods. But possessions do not have much effect on children's level of happiness. What makes for happy kids is close bonding time with parents."
Parents were also asked whether they attach importance to communication, division of labour in the family, and the establishment of rules and regulations. While communication was important to 72 per cent of the 292 parents polled, only 38 per cent thought division of labour mattered, and only 19 per cent valued setting clear rules.
Man says parents should not overlook the importance of setting moral standards or behavioural constraints for children.