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Questionnaire on Daily Life of Children in Japan II Summary

This study has three characteristics. First, it is currently the most credible study to survey the overall lives of young children in Japan. Second, it is possible to make comparisons between the present and five years ago, as a very similar study was conducted in 1995 which provides insight into the changes that have occurred over this five-year period. Third, the regional cities of Toyama and Oita were included in this study in addition to the Tokyo metropolitan area included in the study of five years ago to gain an understanding on a national level. Furthermore, an additional section on the child rearing stress of parents was included in the study to complement the review of the overall life of children.

Looking at changes that have taken place over the past five years, the following is a summary of the findings regarding children's lives today and the status of child rearing.

1. Changes over a five-year period Four trends can be identified. First, children are becoming more similar to adults. Second, our society is becoming more of an information society. Third, in parrallel with those trends toward more use of information technologies, needs of lively experience in young children's lives has begun to be recognized in parents. Fourth, in contrast, much-touted trends of early entrance exam preparations grew less prominent leading to more emphasis of experience and a shift away from the focus examinations.

1) Children Becoming Adults
Most noticeable is that bed times for children have become nearly the same as for adults. On weekdays, the number of children going to bed at a later time has increased, in particular, the number of children going to bed after 10:00 p.m. Children are not, however, sleeping particularly later in the morning. If anything, they are waking up slightly earlier. This has led to a lack of a sleep among children on weekdays. They may be making up for lack of sleep on the weekend or in the afternoon naptime at day-care centers or at home, if they do not enroll in child care. At the same time, children have their evening meal later. This trend is particularly noticeable in children attending day-care centers and those who do not enroll in child care.

The amount of time spent at kindergarten/day-care centers is getting longer. These facilities are also changing to take care of children for longer periods of time during the day.

2) Information society
The use of information media is increasing. Although an increase in watching television has not been observed, the use of videos is increasing. Younger age children in particular are watching videos on a daily basis. There is a distinct trend toward children watching a combination of television and video. Among consumer items, the number of personal computers and CD players is increasing, but there are no conclusions on whether or not they are being used by children.

3) Emphasis on experience
Who and what are children playing with? More children are playing with natural objects such as pebbles or tree branches. Children continue to play in parks, school playgrounds, etc. More children now play in neighborhood parks and recreational areas. The most common play area is the home. Playing at home has also increased. Playing with friends appears to have decreased slightly.

Many parents play with their children. The amount of indoor play tends to increase as the child gets older. However, efforts to create opportunities to play outdoors in nature or to play in a wide-open, safe place seem to increase slightly.

4) Shift away from Exams
The trend to start preparing for the entrance exams of famous kindergartens/schools from an early age is not necessarily increasing. Although this may be due to the slow economy, the amount of money being spent on exam preparation is decreasing. Private lessons for test preparation are on the decrease, as are swimming lessons etc. Among study aids, the number of workbooks for children has decreased. However, the use of correspondence courses has increased. Perhaps more than a decrease in interest in intellectual early age education, there is a move towards less expensive alternatives or alternatives that are not designed to help the child pass tests right away.

However, parents' expectations of their children's future education are falling. This is particularly true among mothers who are high school graduates. This may be due to the poor economy or a declining belief that higher education will lead to success. At least, the media no longer makes fun of the exam situation as much as it once did.

2. Present circumstances of child rearing In the current study, we asked in detail about the parent's child rearing experience. Following are some of the results.

1) Fulfillment as a parent
In spite of some worries, parent(s) raising a child (the majority of which are mothers) are fulfilled and satisfied with their child rearing experience. Many parent(s) are very satisfied with their child's growth. In fact, the number is increasing. The percentage of parent(s) who are satisfied with their life is also increasing. Most mothers think their children are cute. Child rearing, particularly when the child is young is considered enjoyable.

This does not mean, however, that there is no stress related to child rearing. About 60 percent respond that they are sometimes annoyed and vent their frustration on the child. Quite a few parents believe that child rearing is all about endurance and they don't know what to do, particularly parents with younger children. Although it was not the large majority, there are many who felt like this on occasion.

2) Living as a member of the family and as an individual
Fewer families revolve around the father. The mother tends to be the center of family life. Rather than meaning that the father is not in the home, it probably reflects a relationship of equality between the father and the mother. The amount of time a father plays with the child is increasing. It appears that the father is less thought of as the householder of the home.

The father's involvement with housework and child rearing duties were not included in the survey five years ago so a comparison is not possible. However, while fathers do little housework, they are participating more in child rearing. More importantly, the father gives mental/moral support to the mother. As for their involvement in child rearing, fathers discipline and play with their children.

Families centered on the husband and wife are decreasing. More families tend to be centered around the children. Although mothers are more vocal, this is more common in families that are centered around the child, at least while the child is young.

The percentage of full-time homemakers who want to work and to try something on their own when they have some time away from their child is increasing. 70% of mothers want to work once their child grows old enough and that percentage has not changed over time. Many mothers want to stay home while the child is young, but once the child enters elementary school, they want to work.

3) Comparison of full-time homemakers and working mothers
Full-time mothers feel higher child rearing stress than working mothers. A working mother has a more positive view of child rearing. This may be due to the fact that the father's involvement with child rearing is greater when the mother works full time, compared to mothers who are full time homemakers or work part time. Regardless of whether they are a full-time homemaker or a full-time working mother, their anxieties with child rearing tend to decline when the father offers a high level of mental/moral support and participation with child rearing activities.

Furthermore, full-time working mothers probably work because of a strong desire to do so and gain a great deal of satisfaction from their employment. It may possibly be work that requires a high level of skill. By placing their child in day care, they are able to consult with the caregivers at the day care about child rearing. This communication may well contribute to less stress.

Regarding the psychological and physical stress and concern that is under discussion, working mothers might really be under much stress. It is possible that they would report physical symptoms such as tension in the neck and shoulders. This could be because they are responsible for a large share of both child rearing and house work.

4) Child care decisions
Currently, child care options, such as day care, baby sitting services, etc., are expanding. We looked at the current situation and the wishes of parents.

Parents want to use child care services the most when they go shopping, visit the hospital, or go to PTA meetings, etc. This is followed by occasions when they want to meet friends, go out with the spouse or just enjoy free time. Necessary errands take priority, followed by personal reasons, as an individual or couple. Percentages for both are noticeably high.

Children are usually left with family and relatives such as the father or the grandparents. There is a strong trend for mothers to run errands while the child is in day care. We can say that the family is usually asked to look after a child.

Mothers consult the father the most about child rearing. Other sources of information are friends or the mother, followed by family, neighbors and doctors. Next would be the kindergarten/day-care centers. Child-care facilities and public health centers are consulted less often than are friend or acquaintances, but the percentage of people that consult these sources cannot be ignored. Parents would like to get more advice from kindergarten/day-care center teachers. It is meaningful that mothers with children who do not enroll in child care want to consult with those care providers. It is desirable that these facilities be made accessible to these parents.

Looking at what parents would like from kindergartens/day-care centers, many responded that they want their child to be involved in group activities and for their children to make friends. We see that parents want their children to develop socially. The next most common wish was for contact and exchange among parents about child care. There are high expectations of kindergartens/day-care centers as local centers of child care.
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