No. kr_self1a01_a

Article: Family Life


Family Life
Japan Information Network. (2002). Electronic References. Retrieved Mar. 2, 2002,
from http://jin.jcic.or.jp/today/society/society2.html#fam

Before World War II most Japanese lived in extended families of three or more generations. Family relationships were governed by a rigid hierarchical system, and parental authority was strong. Fathers commanded respect and obedience from their children and, in turn, offered the same to their own parents; married women were expected to faithfully obey their husbands and parents-in-law. The process of democratization after the war, however, transformed every aspect of Japanese family life. Especially important was the revision of the Civil Code in 1947, which gave women equal legal status with men in all phases of life, thereby abolishing the old patriarchal character of the family.

Rapid economic growth has had a large impact on family life as well. One of the most conspicuous changes has been the increasing number of people who live in nuclear families consisting only of parents and children, a trend which has been strengthened by urbanization and technological developments. Extended families accounted for 44% of all households in 1955, but this ratio has declined steadily, dropping to 19% in 1970, 16.2% in 1980, and 12.7% in 1994. The ratio of nuclear families, meanwhile, rose to 59.7% of all households in 1994.

Another major change in the family has been the sharp decrease in the number of children born. In 1930 the average woman gave birth to 4.7 children during her lifetime, but this number fell to 3.6 in 1950 and 1.5 in 1994. This decline, together with the growing trend among young people to find employment in the city and live in company dormitories or on their own, has contributed to a decrease in the average size of the Japanese household, which now stands at 2.8 people.

As a result of the demise of the extended family and the increased life expectancy of the Japanese, the number of elderly people living on their own has risen. The ratio of households consisting only of people aged 65 or older jumped from 2.2% in 1955 to 13.2% in 1994. Recently consideration of the problems that elderly people face when living on their own, as well as the merits of living in extended families, has led to a reappraisal of the larger family unit.

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