For years after her divorce, Grace had little private time. She was busy with a demanding job at a garment factory and her studies in the evening. In addition, she had to keep an eye on her young daughter. Now, she has upgraded her education and obtained a stable civil service job and she feels another need - finding a lifelong partner. But this will not be easy; like many other single mothers in town, it is often a lengthy process striking up new relationships in the aftermath of a doomed marriage. Prospects for marrying again are not always rosy, particularly for women from the low-income group. Divorced men have a better chance, suggest two academics from the City University's division of social studies, Roger Kwan Wai-hong and Herbert Chiu Kau-tai. As revealed in their study on divorcees' attitudes towards re-marriage, the less educated and financially stricken are also likely to be deprived emotionally. Of the 152 females and 18 males polled by the pair, ages ranging from 26 to 50, only 6.2 per cent were re-married. An overwhelming 63 per cent were not attached to anyone, while less than three per cent had a live-in companion. Most respondents have remained single for more than five years. As they usually have better earning power, men are better-prepared to pursue a new relationship shortly after divorce, say the researchers. On the mainland, men also have ample opportunities to meet young women. This explains why there are far more single women than men around. In contrast, romantic affairs seem a distant dream to women struggling to make ends meet. 'It is common for divorced women from the lower social strata to live on social security assistance as the need to look after their children stops them working. But the government handouts are so small; they have to be very careful with their money,' explains Mr Kwan. Many are so occupied with child-rearing that little time is left for their own activities. 'Many do not know where to turn to for help except their mother,' says Mr Kwan, who firmly believes in the need for improved support services for single parents. In Grace's case, she was mainly tied up with her career pursuits, struggling hard to provide a stable environment for herself and her daughter. Her former husband disappeared after they split up, dodging his responsibility to pay her alimony. Thanks to her own efforts, Grace was promoted from a clerk to the position of supervisor. 'I was too busy for other things,' she recalled. Frankly, she adds that she feels lonely at times. 'Now that I have settled into an independent lifestyle, I hope to find someone I can share my feelings with.' A limited social circle stands in the way of her and many others' desire to form an intimate relationship. Resistance from their own children also lessens their chance of marrying again. In general, according to Mr Kwan, women are more likely to be granted custody of their children in case of a divorce. Personal factors play a vital part too in the female divorcees' long delay in seeking a new marriage. 'They tend to have a low self-esteem,' says Mr Kwan. 'Many see their marital break-up as a failure on their part and are worried about discrimination by others. 'To some extent, a social stigma is attached to female single parents,' he says, citing the case of a woman in her mid-30s with one son who has kept her marital status a secret from her colleagues, out of fear of being sacked once her boss discovers that she is divorced. The City University pair advise divorcees against rushing into a new marriage to avoid social pressure. Their separate study on re-married individuals has identified risk factors for marriages involving former divorcees. Mr Kwan and his colleague had in-depth interviews with 17 such individuals, 13 of them female. To their dismay, one-third described their relationship with their present spouse to be in crisis. This, says Mr Kwan, could boil down to the fact the divorcees were driven by self-centred motives, rather than positive factors like mutual attraction and compatibility. Most respondents accounted for their decision with reasons such as desire for companionship or to ease their financial difficulties, or to make the family 'more complete'. 'There is a much higher chance for a happy marriage if the divorcee involved does not only care for her own needs, but those of the other party as well,' says Mr Kwan. He sees the need for more counselling services for divorcees considering marriage. 'They need to make a lot more adjustments; usually there are more family members, such as children, involved, and their previous experience could have an effect on their new-found relationship.'