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Child-Caring Design for Child Support Systems to Resolve Children's Issues

In the news today, there are almost too many "child issues" to count them all. Beginning with child abuse, we can cite school refusal, juvenile delinquency, crime, and the list goes on. As you know, they are found in many areas of children's lives. We find them in child care, child raising and education in the family, child care facilities and nursery school, in the life cycles of conception, pregnancy, and child raising, and furthermore in the growth and development of infants, toddlers, schoolchildren and young children, preschoolers, and youth (puberty). In a sense, the declining birthrate also affects children's issues, both directly and indirectly. As we start 2011, I would like to think about what we can do about them.

Of course, resolving these children's issues first requires pinpointing and clarifying their cause. As I have mentioned in the past, these causes appear to derive from our affluent society, in particular the negative aspects of material wealth. We no longer find it necessary to rely on the gentleness, empathy, and consideration for others that we have developed over the course of human evolution.

An affluent society conjures up images of everything from mountains of industrial and non-industrial waste, pollution and destruction of the natural environment to health problems such as obesity and diabetes. But, that is not all. Our hearts are troubled, too. We see minds that single-heartedly pursue wealth and worship money, believing it to be omnipotent, and a decline in values that justifies taking advantage of the weak for financial gain. Poverty appears in even in an affluent society, which leads to disparity, it is no longer possible to be poor and live a rich inner life.

In order to solve these diverse child-related issues, how should child-caring design be applied in the things and activities that make up society? First of all, the perspective of kodomogaku or Child Science, which I espouse, is necessary and should be based on the disciplines of child raising, day care education, education, psychology, growth science and pediatrics. These alone will clearly not be sufficient, so we will have to integrate sociology, cultural anthropology, economics, law and all the other areas of natural sciences and humanities that are relevant to children's lives.

As such, because Child Science is so diverse, unfortunately, it is hard to say that it is systematized at this time. And each children's issue entails a different combination of related disciplines. This calls for the integration of the natural sciences and humanities. Child Science is a comprehensive, inclusive, and synthetic human science of children.

Given the ideas and technology of our information society today, it is not impossible to bridge these disciplines. This was the notion behind my launching Child Research Net and organizing the Japanese Society of Child Science. And furthermore, such a forum for discussion is necessary to systematically formulate Child Science to resolve these issues. I think that as researchers and practitioners come together for discussion, Child Science will come to take shape and form as discipline.

Now, however, in order to return to the gentleness that has become lost amid the affluence and to implement child-caring design that reflects concern about children's lives and future, the following will be important to keep in mind.

First, it is important to incorporate the views of women. With the power to conceive life and nurture through breastfeeding, women have ideas and views that do not occur to men. This is based on gentle feelings.

Second, regional differences are a significant factor in child raising. This means that it is necessary to organize child-raising support systems, such as child care, day care, and education that are adapted to the particular region.

The child-raising support systems that are now in place around Japan, including the government policies, are not necessarily successful. If they were, they would already be resolved, but on the contrary, it appears that they are getting worse.

What can we do, first, to incorporate women's perspectives and views, and second, to implement child-caring design that supports child raising with regional characteristics? This is a difficult problem, but I do think that we can use the existing system to do so. One example is the Yomiuri Child-Raising Support Group, which was launched by Osaka, the head office of the Yomiuri Newspaper. Throughout Japan, there are NPOs that support child raising and many of them have been established by women and based on their ideas and organized at a grassroots level to meet their needs. I have even come across the support methods of NPOs that were established by men based on their wives' ideas. These organizations have expanded all over Japan, and I think that one way to resolve childrens' issues will be to make them more active.

As one way to encourage more activity, I would go so far as to propose that the government itself refrain from direct involvement and guidance, but support these NPOs in some other way. This should allow the society to function well even on a comparatively small budget.

Dana Raphael, a medical anthropologist who was a student of the cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead, has stated that in all cultures, women themselves create systems to help one another. These systems existed in the past of advanced countries and continue to exist today in traditional cultures. The doula in Greece is a good example of this. They provided emotional support to women in the stages of giving life-pregnancy, delivery and child raising. I think that it is time to establish a doula system that is in keeping with the affluent society of the twenty-first century.

For more information on doula, see the CRN website. Click here. (Japanese only)
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