Changing Roles of the Wife and the Husband in Care-Giving to Their Older Parents in Japan

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 08:45
Oral Presentation
Reiko YAMATO, Faculty of Sociology, Kansai University, Japan
[Background] In Japan, being influenced by Confucian norms, patrilineal care-giving (namely, the married couple lives with the husband’s parents and the wife and husband provide care for the husband’s parents) have been thought to be morally desirable and in fact widely observed. Recently, however, such a traditional type of care-giving may be transforming with the backdrop of urbanization, an increase of the nuclear family, gender equalization, and low birth rates which leads to an only child prevailing. [Question and hypotheses] How is care-giving by children transforming in present Japan? There are three hypotheses. First, a “patrilineal norm” hypothesis argues that the patrilineal care-giving is maintained where both the wife and husband as a couple provide more care to the husband’s parents than to the wife’s parents because the norm survives despite social changes. Second, a hypothesis of “bilateral intergenerational relationships” argues that the bilateral relationship will prevail where both the wife and husband provide almost the same amount of care to the wife’s parents as to the husband’s parents. These two hypotheses presuppose that the wife and husband are a unified unit and behave in the same way. In contrast, the third hypothesis of the “individualization of the wife and the husband” argues that the wife gives more care to her own parents and the husband give more care to his own parents. [Data and results] Analyses of data obtained from the National Family Research Japan 2008 reveals that the hypothesis of the “individualization of the wife and the husband” is empirically supported. This result suggests that in contemporary Japan, care-giving is not a couple’s but an individualized task and that not only women but also men themselves are expected to provide physical care to their own parents even if the men have a wife. Policy implications will be discussed.