Changing Expectations: Increasing Happiness and Unhappiness in Japanese Marriages

Larry Bumpass, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Noriko Tsuya, Keio University
Minja K. Choe, East West Center
Ronald R. Rindfuss, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Marriage in Japan has traditionally been an essential adult status. Based on a functional division of labor, marriages remained intact out of obligation rather than personal choice. Hence, there was little point to evaluating one’s marriage: many couples were indeed happy or unhappy, but in general, “ok” was good enough. Nevertheless, the Japanese family system is undergoing major changes associated with increasing freedom of choice, including decisions to divorce. In this context, using surveys from 1994 and 2000, we document movement away from concentration in a middle category on marital happiness, “so-so,” towards responses of either happy or unhappy. Multivariate analyses are conducted with respect to responses in the middle category, and of the five-point scale. Marital happiness is structured much more by social variables in 2000 than in 1994. Finally, we discuss these results in the context of the treatment of family issues in the Japanese media.

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Presented in Session 120: The Marriage Revolution in Asia