The Sociology of Fatherhood and Consumption: Empirical Evidence from Soon-to-be-Parents in Japan

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 1:30 PM
Room: 419
Oral Presentation
Kosuke MIZUKOSHI , Business School, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Japan
Florian KOHLBACHER , Institute for Japanese Studies, Japan
Japanese society has been undergoing tremendous transformations in recent years. One of them is the change in family organization and family life and in particular the role and identity of the father. The most well-known example of this is the rise of the so-called ikumen: men who actively engage in child rearing. A government campaign launched in 2010 to encourage Japanese men to take a more active role in parenting is gathering momentum. Seminars aimed at men on how to develop parenting skills are now being held across the country and father figures who take time out of their work to spend time with their kids are currently being applauded in the media.

While Japanese fathers have been studied in the area of family sociology, research on recent changes in fatherhood in Japan and the ikumen in particular is still in its infancy. So far, no study has looked into the issue of consumer behavior of fathers in Japan and how consumption patterns change with fatherhood. Given the state-of-the field, we opted for an exploratory, qualitative research approach. After a pretest with one couple, we interviewed 12 expecting couples about their current situation and expectations for the near future in terms of their life in general and their consumer life in particular. We first interviewed the soon-to-be parents separately first and then jointly together as well. All interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim before being subjected to a qualitative content analysis.

Our findings reveal a mix of rational, goal-directed consumer behaviors in combination with the consumption of goods and services in relation to spiritual and superstitious beliefs grounded in Japanese religious traditions or folk culture. We also find gender role and generational differences when probing the social relationships between (expecting) mother and father and between father and his own father.