Article

Tough Choices: Bearing an Illegitimate Child in Japan

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Abstract

As is the case in Western industrialized countries, Japan is seeing a rise in the number of unmarried couples, later marriages, and divorces. What sets Japan apart, however, is that the percentage of children born out of wedlock has hardly changed in the past fifty years. This book provides the first systematic study of single motherhood in contemporary Japan. Seeking to answer why illegitimate births in Japan remain such a rarity, Hertog spent over three years interviewing single mothers, academics, social workers, activists, and policymakers about the beliefs, values, and choices that unmarried Japanese mothers have. Pairing her findings with extensive research, she considers the economic and legal disadvantages these women face, as well as the cultural context that underscores family change and social inequality in Japan. This is the only scholarly account that offers sufficient detail to allow for extensive comparisons with unmarried mothers in the West.

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... The government then revised its focus to also include the increasing trend of marriage postponement and non-marriage seen among young people of childbearing age. This new addition was prodded by statistics that show the significant influence that marriage postponement and non-marriage have on the declining birthrate (Statistics Bureau 2011; National Institute of Population and Social Security Research 2011), due to the near-universal precursor of marriage to childbirth in Japanese society (Hertog 2009). 1 Specifically, the Japanese government began incorporating 'marriage assistance' programs into its 'countermeasures for the declining birthrate crisis' initiatives, allocating 300 million yen, for example, as special funds for such marriage assistance endeavors at the local government level (Cabinet Office 2015). Simultaneously, the private sector began producing 'meetup' services for singles, effectively launching a lucrative 'marriage hunting' (konkatsu) industry, with the top four listed companies collectively amassing 12.3 billion yen in sales (roughly 112 million USD) in 2016 (Myall Ltd. 2016). ...
... De facto discrimination takes a significantly longer time to cease compared with de jure discrimination; hence, stigmatization of illegitimate children and their unwed mothers is still prevalent and normatively powerful within the general Japanese social sentiment. This is arguably the main reason behind the shockingly low rate of out-of-wedlock childbirths in Japan, thereby making marriage a near-universal precursor to childbirth (Hertog 2009). ...
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Romantic partnership formation by itself has remained intact in most postindustrial societies despite declining marriage rates. However, among contemporary Japanese people of childbearing age, the never-married singlehood rate is ever-increasing amidst a dearth of alternative forms of partnership, a consistently high demand for marriage, and a thriving ‘marriage hunting’ (konkatsu) market. At the core of this puzzle is a prevalence of virginity and significantly decreased inter-gender interaction among the singles as a whole. Based upon qualitative research conducted at multiple ‘marriage hunting’ venues within the Tokyo metropolis, this article analyses contemporary Japanese singlehood within the framework of the ‘culture of uncertainty’, which scholars have argued characterizes post-bubble ‘precarious Japan’. It can be argued that the current absence of past institutions that mediated interpersonal connections has left the recent generation who came of age during the two ‘lost decades’ deprived of relevant gender scripts as well as appropriate gendered expectations. Specifically, this article examines how newly emergent non-normative gender tropes, such as the ‘herbivore-type man’, are regarded with ambivalence by both men and women, as well as how traditional gender norms persist within the singles’ psyche despite their increasing social irrelevance.
... The small share of nonmarital births in Japan may be explained primarily by the fact that regarding childrearing ideologies, women are socialized not to choose nonmarital births (Hertog 2009). A study comparing Japan and the United States argues that Japanese women evaluate nonmarital childbearing as "morally inferior," whereas American women do not consider marriage a necessary condition for childbearing (Hertog and Iwasawa 2011). ...
... The theory of couples' interdependence (Kelley 1979;Scanzoni 1979), which assumes that couples are interconnected through behavioral and psychological exchanges derived from their romantic relationship, predicts that pregnancy causes conflict within the couple. If the pregnancy is unintended, its negative impact on marital well-being is stronger because the marriage is undertaken to avoid having a child out of wedlock (Hertog 2009) rather than for the relationship itself (Knab and Harknett 2006;Surra et al. 1987). ...
Article
BACKGROUND Although nonmarital childbearing is uncommon in Japan, in contrast to the trends observed in other countries, the number of premarital pregnancies has increased. While prior studies have examined the determinants of premarital pregnancy, little is known about its consequence on individuals' subsequent childbearing. OBJECTIVE The aim of this study is to investigate the effect of premarital pregnancy on a second childbirth in Japan. METHOD We use Japanese General Social Survey Life Course Study data, which covers women ages 28-42 in 2007. We use discrete time logistic regressions to estimate the individual risk of experiencing a second childbirth. Additionally, because being pregnant before marriage occurs selectively depending on individual demographic characteristics, we attempt to balance the propensity to experience premarital pregnancy by using propensity score matching. RESULTS The results reveal that experiencing premarital pregnancy causes a higher likelihood of second childbirth at earlier and later ages, defined as month at risk starting from one year after the first birth. CONCLUSION Our results support the life course change hypothesis. This predicts that premarital pregnancy, which is highly likely to be unintended, increases the risk of bearing a second child, possibly by relatively reducing both women's attachment to paid employment and the opportunity cost of having a second child. CONTRIBUTION Premarital pregnancy may affect women's subsequent life course through the influence of the strong linkage between marriage and fertility and the Japanese work culture. The results could be applicable to other East Asian countries.
... In 1995, the percentage of unmarried men and women aged 25-29 were respectively 66.9 per cent and 48 per cent (Roberts 2002: 55). In a country where birth out of wedlock is almost non-existent (Hertog 2009), the current decline in the number of marriages means that many parents are unlikely to have, or do not trust their children to provide them with, a successor to their household and family graves. If these figures only prove a significant delay in marriages, these facts nevertheless cause concern among the older generations, at least with regards to family succession. ...
Chapter
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Based on two years of fieldwork in Japan, this chapter explores the demographic and family changes as well as the economic and ideological factors motivating people to choose Tree-Burial. The first section introduces the concept, the community, and the ecological incentives and activities surrounding the Tree-Burial sites. In the second section, I investigate the underlying demographic and family conditions that compel or encourage a section of the Japanese population to renounce the customary ancestral grave. The third section argues that Tree-Burial is, for some subscribers, a means of contesting the exorbitant cost of customary gravestones and the way some Buddhist priests run their burial and funeral business. Finally, the last section of this chapter discusses how Tree-Burial provides for a more individualized form of memorialization, and novel ideas of the afterlife based on its subscribers' aspiration to return to nature (shinzen ni kaeritai) for eternity.
... Such widespread uncertainty under contemporary neoliberal economic reforms has produced a supply and demand for new institutions that fill the gap between the ideal and the reality by offering " new " techniques of liquid life planning, such as companies that facilitate reemployment like the national job placement service Hello Work and facilitate marriage hunting (konkatsu). Indeed, recent studies on single women's desires for children (Tanaka-Naji 2009) and the lives of single mothers (Hertog 2009) and working women (Nakamura 2006) show a renewed sense of a strong desire for stable family life. Similarly, in my fieldwork, it is precisely because some individuals were deeply affected by neoliberal economic conditions in Japan that they became highly aware of growing uncertainties on political, economic and social levels, and therefore reached out to each other through networked faith and human connections. ...
Article
In the midst of the 20 years of economic and social uncertainty that has been punctuated by the worldwide financial crisis, an increasing rhetoric of economic uncertainty and social instability has risen to popular consciousness among many ordinary citizens in Japan. With changing economic and familial relations, individuals in Japan are participating in the networked communities of “moralizing institutions” to find renewed stability and a sense of empowerment in their lives. Through ethnographic fieldwork with an international religious organization and a domestic ethics organization, this paper analyzes the diverse ways in which individuals are reestablishing a sense of stability and direction by reengaging with idealized life patterns and family orientations that have become more elusive under the increasingly uncertain socioeconomic conditions. Specifically, I analyze how individual members were directly affected by what Zygmunt Bauman calls the “liquidity” of recent economic reforms including rising unemployment and late-career layoffs which had drastic repercussions on life planning and family relations. As human networks built from resilient networked faith, these moralizing institutions provide a different kind of logic of “liquidity” and “flexibility,” allowing members to realize their idealized life plans and to navigate toward the solid ground of a stable work and family life.
... In the Japanese context, there is a long history of women being positioned primarily as mothers and wives. This can be seen in the official Meiji era ideology of the Good Wife, Wise Mother (ryōsai kenbo), in debates about the 'Education Mama' (kyōiku mama), in stigma against unmarried mothers (Hertog 2009) and in the post-war social contract that locates women primarily in a caring role within the domestic environment, financially earning in a supportive capacity. In taking on the gendered roles of wife and mother, mothers (and fathers) reinforce the gendered division of labour and ideas of men and women's 'complementary incompetence' in varying ways (Edwards 1990). ...
Book
Over the past two decades, Japan’s socioeconomic environment has undergone considerable changes prompted by both a long recession and the relaxation of particular labour laws in the 1990s and 2000s. Within this context, "freeters", part-time workers aged between fifteen and thirty-four who are not housewives or students, emerged into the public arena as a social problem. This book, drawing on six years of ethnographic research, takes the lives of male freeters as a lens to examine contemporary ideas and experiences of adult masculinities. It queries how notions of adulthood and masculinity are interwoven and how these ideals are changing in the face of large-scale employment shifts. Highlighting the continuing importance of productivity and labour in understandings of masculinities, it argues that men experience and practice multiple masculinities which are often contradictory, sometimes limiting, and change as they age and in interaction with others, and with social structures, institutions, and expectations. Providing a fascinating alternative to the stereotypical idea of the Japanese male as a salaryman, this book will be of huge interest to students and scholars of Japanese culture and society, social and cultural anthropology, gender and men's studies.
... Given the increase in age at the first childbirth and the decrease in age in participation in sexual coitus, women are more likely to experience premarital conception. People in Asian countries still experience a strong social stigma associated with non-marital childbearing due to the influence of Confucian ideology and customs [6]. Thus, marriage in response to pregnancy is considered the normative pathway among societies in these countries [4]. ...
Article
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Objective In East Asia the recently increased number of marriages in response to pregnancy is an important social issue. This study evaluated the association of marriage preceded by pregnancy (bridal pregnancy) with obstetric outcomes among live births in Korea. Methods In this population-based study, 1,152,593 first singleton births were evaluated from data registered in the national birth registration database from 2004 to 2008 in Korea. In the study population, the pregnancy outcomes among live births from the bridal pregnancy group (N = 62,590) were compared with the outcomes of the post-marital pregnancy group (N = 564,749), composed of women who gave birth after 10 months but before 24 months of marriage. The variables preterm birth (PTB; <37 weeks gestation) and low birth weight (LBW; <2.5 kg) were used to determine the primary outcome. The adjusted odds ratios (aORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated after controlling for socio-demographic factors. Results The socio-demographic factors among the bridal pregnancy group were associated with a social disadvantage and particular risk factors. In the subgroup analyses of maternal age, differences in adverse pregnancy outcomes from bridal pregnancy were identified between women in the following age group: (i) ≤19, (ii) 20–39, and (iii) ≥40 years. After the multivariate analysis, the aORs for each age group were 1.47 (95% CI: 1.15–1.89), 1.76 (1.70–1.83), and 1.13 (0.77–1.66), respectively, for PTB and 0.92 (0.70–1.21), 1.60 (1.53–1.66), and 1.11 (0.71–1.74), respectively, for LBW. In the adjusted logistic regression models, bridal pregnancy was associated with PTB (1.76, 1.69–1.82) and LBW (1.53, 1.48–1.59). Conclusion Pregnancy outcomes among live births from bridal pregnancies are associated with higher risks for PTB and LBW in Korea.
... Hence we have seen a delayed entry into (potentially) protective relationships between young people which used to give many women access to male-breadwinner incomes early on. If we believe statistics that consistently tell us the vast majority of youth in Japan still want to get married, late marriages and the prospect of non-marriage emerge as salient new risks, especially for women who still earn significantly less than men on average and who are usually not willing to have children out of wedlock (Hertog 2009 ). In pure nonmarriage-rate terms, however, men of lower socio-economic status seem worst off (Shirahase 2009 ). ...
Article
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Not unlike many European societies in the 1970s and 1980s, Japan went through a rapid process of postindustrialization in the 1990s and 2000s. Whilst the implications were wide-ranging, young (would-be) labour market entrants were among the most affected groups: youth unemployment more than doubled, as did the prevalence of non-standard employment. Simultaneously, how to remain in employment and achieve work-life balance became serious concerns for women especially. This article builds on existing research as well as interviews with 38 university students in Kyoto to capture key features of such 'new risks' in Japan. Alongside intriguing gender and class differences, we find that the short- and long-term anxieties many students face have not yet been countered with public policy innovations. Emerging support measures outside the context of the family and the company remain not only inadequate but also largely unknown to students.
... Low fertility in recent years has been closely related to rising age at marriage as well as increased rates of non-marriage (National Institute of Population and Social Security Research 2012). Given that the rate of non-marital births remains very low in Japan (Hertog 2009), conditions within marriage that make it possible for couples to have two or more children are central in order for Japan to raise its fertility rate. ...
Article
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Background Research has examined how the gendered household division of labor may deter the transition to second birth. However, little research has investigated how workplace norms influence men's household work. Objective This paper takes into account labor market structure, workplace norms, and the legal environment governing working conditions to contextualize men's contribution to household labor and its effect on transition to second birth. Methods Using data from the Japanese Longitudinal Survey of Adults in the 21st Century (2002 Cohort), we employ fixed-effects models to estimate the effect of workplace norms on men's contribution to household work and the effect of men's household work hours on transition to second birth. Results Japanese male university graduates in large firms do a smaller share of household labor than other men. These men are subject to workplace norms prevalent in firm-internal labor markets, which have been supported by Japanese Supreme Court rulings. These norms influence men's allocation of time between the workplace and the home. Moreover, analysis of the transition to second birth indicates that husband's share of household work is an important predictor of second birth, especially for dual-earner couples. CONCLUSIONS Our empirical results suggest that unless changes are made in Japanese employment law and workplace norms, dual-earner couples in particular will continue to face difficulties proceeding to a second birth. CONTRIBUTION This paper demonstrates how the economic and cultural context can create disincentives for men to contribute to household labor, which in turn lowers the probability of transition to second birth.
... Marriage remains a resilient marker of becoming a full adult member of society (shakaijin) (Edwards, 1989, pp. 116-127;Tokuhiro, 2010), as well as the only legitimate site for childbearing (Hertog, 2009). Recent studies show that most Japanese women want to marry and have a family. ...
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“The Joy of Normal Living” is at once the motto and the ideology of Kurihara Harumi, Japan’s best-known charisma housewife and icon of domesticity. This article looks at the relationship between “normal living” and the promise of happiness, as formulated in postwar Japan. Beginning with the government’s promotion, in the early postwar period, of the idea of akarui seikatsu (bright new life) as related to the typical suburban middle-class family of salaryman husband and full-time housewife, the article goes on to look at the cultural idea of “being happy as a woman” in contemporary Japan. Based on in-depth interviews with full-time housewives, and an analysis of popular women’s magazines, this article seeks to decipher what constitutes the idea of happiness for these women and for their generation.
... The rarity of nonmarital childbearing likely reflects both discrimination against illegitimate children and the significant economic difficulties associated with single parenthood. In addition to the social stigma associated with nonmarital childbearing, illegitimate children have also been subject to important forms of legal discrimination in Japan, including limited inheritance rights and the ability to identify legitimacy status from family register documents (Hertog, 2008). The economic viability of single motherhood is impacted not only by gender discrimination in the labor market but also by a shortage of convenient childcare options and the fact that better paying jobs typically do not allow for flexible work scheduling. ...
Article
In this paper, we examined two aspects of recent increases in marriage preceded by pregnancy (bridal pregnancy) in Japan. Using information on 28,973 respondents to the Japanese National Fertility Surveys, we first demonstrated that increases in bridal pregnancy between 1970 and 2002 were concentrated among women without postsecondary education. We then estimated multinomial logistic regression models to evaluate change over time in the association between bridal pregnancy and patterns of educational pairing. Results indicated that bridal pregnancy is associated with a significantly higher likelihood of nonnormative educational pairing and that this relationship has become more pronounced over time. We concluded by evaluating these results in comparative context and speculating about the implications for subsequent family change in Japan.
... One is a child allowance (jidō teate) that covers almost all families with children but provides only a small subsidy of about $50 (5,000 yen) for the first two children and somewhat more for additional children and somewhat more for low-income households (Abe, 2008). The second is a meanstested childrearing allowance (jidō fuyō teate) that provides employed single mothers about $400 per month for their first child and small supplements for additional children (Abe & Ōishi, 2005; Hertog, 2009). The third is public assistance (seikatsu hogo), but many poor single mothers do not meet the strict eligibility criteria for this benefit (Abe, 2003). ...
Article
This article examines the well-being of Japanese children in single-mother families relative to children living with both parents. Using data from three rounds of the National Survey of Households with Children, I first demonstrate that single mothers report their children to have significantly worse health and lower academic performance. I then estimate regression models to assess the extent to which these differences reflect single mothers’ economic disadvantage, difficult work circumstances, and worse health and experience of stressful life events. Results indicate that economic disadvantage is particularly important for understanding lower levels of well-being among the children of single mothers. I conclude by discussing potential implications of these results for linkages between family behavior and inequality in Japan and for the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage.
... Thus, many women wait until their children are "safely" married before initiating their own divorces. Japan has one of the lowest "out of wedlock" births in the industrialized world (Hertog & Iwasawa, 2011), and women will often pressure men into a dekichatta kekkon (shotgun wedding), even if the men are abusive or absent (Hertog, 2009), because socially having a father is critical to children's success in Japan. ...
Article
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Studies show that experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) during pregnancy is related to poor maternal–infant bonding. However, the mechanisms underlying this relationship are unclear. This article aims to examine whether maternal postpartum depressive (PPD) symptoms mediate the association between pregnancy IPV and maternal–infant bonding, and whether the relationship differs by maternal–infant bonding subscales—lack of affection, anger/rejection. A survey was conducted among women who participated in a postpartum health check-up program in Aichi prefecture, Japan ( N = 6,590) in 2012. We examined whether experiences of emotional and physical IPV were related to maternal–infant bonding and whether PPD symptoms mediated this relationship. Path analysis showed that emotional and physical IPV were associated with PPD symptoms, and PPD symptoms predicted poor bonding. The total effect of emotional IPV on poor bonding was significant, showing a marginally significant direct effect and statistically significant indirect effect. The total effect of physical IPV on poor bonding was not statistically significant. Emotional IPV was significantly associated with both lack of affection and anger/rejection bonding subscales, which were similarly mediated by PPD symptoms. Findings revealed a modest indirect association between IPV, emotional IPV in particular, and poor maternal–infant bonding, which was mediated by PPD symptoms. While prevention of IPV is the ultimate goal, the treatment of PPD symptoms among women who experience IPV during pregnancy may improve maternal–infant bonding and mitigate cross-generational effects of IPV. Identifying opportunities for detection of IPV and PPD symptoms, as well as prevention and early intervention, may improve maternal–infant bonding.
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This study investigates factors that could explain why the association between the egalitarian gender-role attitudes and the attitudes toward the importance of marriage (marital centrality) differs across societies. Using data from the International Social Survey Programme for 24 countries in 2002 and 2012 and multilevel modeling, we explore whether the Gender Revolution and the Second Demographic Transition frameworks could explain the country-level differences in the association between gender-role attitudes and marital centrality. We find that the negative association between the egalitarian gender-role attitudes and marital centrality is stronger in countries with a higher gender equality level and a higher fertility level. This work highlights the importance of considering the progress of the gender revolution and the second demographic transition to understand the relationship between gender equality and family formation.
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This paper focuses on the changing definition of marriage for young women in Tokyo over the last 10 years. Based on fieldwork research conducted in Tokyo, I examine why women are delaying or refusing marriage, arguing that women’s decisions can best be understood in relation to work. I discuss how young women negotiate their conception of marriage by articulating their desires for self-realization, a career, and participation in society, within the context of a flexibilization of work and the transformation of family in contemporary Japan.
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