Delayed marriage in contemporary Japan : a qualitative study

by Tokuhiro, Yoko

Abstract (Summary)
(Uncorrected OCR) Abstract of thesis entitled Delayed Marriage in Contemporary Japan: A Qualitative Study submitted by Yoko Tokuhiro for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong in April 2004 In light of the recent rapid rise in the average age at first marriage in Japan, this thesis attempts to explore some important Japanese cultural and socio-economic factors that have led to these changes. Rapid changes in marital behaviour reflect how people's attitudes to and ideas of marriage have changed in important ways. Marriage patterns in some selected industrialised countries are analysed from both liistorical and cross-societal comparative perspectives. Results indicate that one cannot expect to see the general process of industrialisation showing the same consequences in different countries and different time periods. This highlights the importance of taking into account local and historical factors, including cultural factors, in seeking to understand particular cases. Young people in Japan, especially women, postpone their marriage because marrying at a younger age is seen as having the potentially significant power to define contents of future roles in Japan. New discourses of gender identity, including issues related to feminism and sexuality, are influencing constructions and understandings of "selves" in Japan. One significant impact of new discourses may be that an increasing number of young Japanese women find it difficult to develop their identities within the institutions of marriage. Women's increased participation in areas outside of the family, such as education and career, compete with their familial roles. In contrast, men's attitudes towards marriage seem to have remained relatively conventional. I argue that men's persistence in adhering to the "traditional" ideas about gender roles and masculinity prevent them from narrowing the gap between the sexes. It is argued that this discrepancy between men and women is one major reason causing the postponement of marriage. Cultural tradition and the marital norms continue to remain relatively conservative in Japan. Both young men and women perceive it as necessary to marry at some point in their life, and they strongly internalise the idea that they should marry before childbearing. For instance, young Japanese women are seriously concerned about the so-called "biological clock." They perceive of this issue as a physical one, so that they should marry and bear children before it is physically too late, but I argue that it is rather a psychological issue. Cultural tradition surrounding marriage directs women to believe that they should marry before reaching a certain age. Some important socio-economic factors, such as the increase in women's educational attainments, workforce participation, and change in the type of mate-selection practices, are investigated. It is discovered that highly educated, highly paid career women living in urban areas are the ones who are most enthusiastic about postponing their marriages. At the same time, they possess changing ideas about the institutions of marriage, education, and career. Finally, this study suggests that it is difficult to predict exactly how culture and structural changes interact with one another. This makes it difficult to foresee the consequences of this interaction on factors such as family formation and the marriage patterns. This is because structural changes and cultural factors, including people's common ideology, interact in different ways in different historical situations.
Bibliographical Information:


School:The University of Hong Kong

School Location:China - Hong Kong SAR

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:marriage japan


Date of Publication:01/01/2005

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