Re-Discovering Children As Social Actor in Conflicting Close Relationships in Contemporary Japan

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 6:18 PM
Room: Booth 64
Oral Presentation
Mutsuko TAKAHASHI , Graduate School of Social Welfare Stdies, Kibi International University, Okayama City, Japan
This research aims to explore possibilities of children to be re-discovered as social actor particularly in advert circumstances caused by conflicting family relationships. The Japanese family law as part of Civil Code has recently been modified, and since April 2012 post-divorce life of children has also been influenced by this family law reform. Even though contact to child by non-resident parent is regarded as one of the children’s rights, children’s wishes and will are not always sufficiently considered when the question is a high conflict case so that family court is asked to make a decision either by judge’s decision or court mediation. Bearing in mind such court practice in Japan, it will be studied how children have been recognized in Japanese legal debate by analyzing relevant research literature. This legal aspect on child will further be analyzed through contrast to discourse on childhood among Japanese sociologists of childhood. The second part of this paper will address the discrepancy between normative views and realities of gender equality concerning parental responsibilities for child rearing in contemporary Japan. In a sense, family policy in Japan holds strong tension between promotion of gender equality and recognition of children as social actor - rather than passive object under parental authority. It would be argued that children as social actor need urgently be re-discovered in order to improve safety of children’s life and development regardless of their relationship with parents.