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Basic Survey on Child Rearing in Japan I-II

This article is an excerpt and translation of : Benesse Educational Research Center, 1999. Kosodate seikatsu kihon chosa houkokushoII Kenkyu shoho, Vol.19. Tokyo : Benesse Corporation.

1. Introduction

This survey analyzes a questionnaire that was distributed in December 1998 to 4,718 parents of children in the third through ninth grades who live in the Tokyo metropolitan area. A similar survey was conducted in 1997, of parents with children ranging from preschoolers (three-years old) to second graders. The two surveys combined covered all the grades from preschool to junior high school. This data provides insight into how mothers' (*1) concepts of child rearing changes over this period of twelve years.

The TOPICs focuses on daily child rearing issues. What worries mothers, and with whom do they consult? In what situations do they enjoy raising children? It also analyzes awareness of education and raising the child, including daily habits, what the parents (mothers) try to achieve by disciplining their children, the role of the home and school, and what parents expect from schools. Lastly it examines what mothers think of their children's learning abilities and studies. It also analyzes present and future expectations of their children.

The importance of education in the home is currently being focused upon in the Japanese society, and the discussions tend to propose "idealistic situations" that seem unrealistic when considering the actual daily life of mothers. The aim of this survey, attempts to understand their actual situation and seek possible solutions to problems. We sincerely hope that this report will contribute to building a better environment for children and in providing support to parents.

2. Survey Features

  • Follows trends through time. The survey is based on a time series and the same research items can be used in every survey.
  • Indicates differences among children from the third through ninth grades. This survey compares the results of each grade from the third through ninth grades. By including the "Basic Survey on Child Rearing, 1997" (Benesse Education Research Center, 1998), that is, kindergarten children up through the second grade, one can see the trends throughout the twelve school grades.
  • Provides a glimpse of the awareness of mothers from a broad perspective. The survey looks at mothers' awareness from a broad perspective through various types of questions that focus on child rearing, (i.e., their sources of information on how to discipline and educate children, the role of home and school, children's private lessons and advancing to higher education).
  • Detailed analysis of comments. All comments are codified to allow quantification and we developed a code table for this purpose. Furthermore, in addition to examining overall trends, typical answers are used for analysis to corroborate the data.

3. Methodology

  • Survey Topics: Child rearing in families with children in the third through ninth grades and mothers' awareness of discipline and education.
    Information sources and concerns regarding child rearing, norms, and the enjoyment of raising children.
    Views on disciplining and educating children (i.e. daily habits and independence).
    Role of the parents and teachers in disciplining and educating children.
    Awareness regarding scholastic ability, studies and lessons.
    Expectations regarding the child's future, higher education, and junior high school entrance exams.
  • Survey Period: December 1998
  • Subjects: Parents of children in the third through ninth grades
  • Survey Regions: Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa
  • Survey Method: Distribution of questionnaires at schools
  • Sample: Number distributed: 8,380. Responses: 4,718 (56.3%) *1, 2, 3

*1 Responses of mothers account for 94.8% (4,475). The rest includes fathers and grandparents which make up 4.5% (210), and 0.7% (33) are unknown. This report included mothers responses only.
*2 The survey uses abbreviations of school grades hereafter (e.g. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th ).
*3 Responses regarding three-year olds at preschool to 1st and the 2nd graders are based on the "Basic Survey on Child Rearing, 1997" (Benesse Education Research Center, 1998).

4. Basic Attributes

  • The survey covered parents (mothers) who have children between the 3rd and the 9th grades (Figure 14).
  • The median age of mothers is 41. The median age of fathers is 44 (Figure 17).
  • 40.2% of the mothers are housewives. 40.3% are part-time workers. 15.8% are full-time workers (Figure 18, 19, and 20).
  • There is an equal number of boys and girls: 48.9% and 48.6%, respectively. 46.9% of the children covered in this survey were the firstborn. 80.9% of the elementary schoolchildren and 74.2% of junior high school students go to public schools (Figure 12, 13, 15, and 16).
  • 70.2% of the families are nuclear families; 23.3% are three-generation families. Four-member families are the most common (39.4%), followed by five-member families (24.2%) (Figure 24 and 25).
  • 23.9% of the families live in Tokyo, 15.8% in Saitama prefecture, 24.6% in Chiba prefecture and 33.5% in Kanagawa prefecture (Figure 21). The number of years of residence is as follows: 5 years or less, 23.2%; 6 to 10 years, 24.2%; 11 to 15 years, 24.7%; 16 to 20 years, 11.8%; 21 years or longer, 8.6% (Figures 22 and 23).
  • 43.4% of the households report that their financial situation is "somewhat comfortable" while 34.1% report a "somewhat strained" financial situation (Figure 26).

5. Topics

TOPIC 1 Mothers and children focus on schoolwork and entrance exams without paying much attention to the importance of basic daily habits (Figure 1).

Mothers are concerned about their children's daily habits, diet, discipline and studies.
The survey asked mothers with children in the 3rd through 9th grades about their concerns in raising children. There were fifty-two multiple choice questions in six fields including questions regarding:
  • meals and diet
  • mental/physical growth and development
  • character- building
  • attitudes and habits
  • delinquency and problematic behavior
  • play
  • discipline and education
  • the mothers themselves
The results of total seven school grades showed that mothers were concerned about 1) cleaning up (47.8%) 2) food safety (38.6%) 3) daily habits (38.5%) and 4) praising and scolding children (35.6%) (Figure 1).

Mothers with children in elementary school are concerned about discipline. After children enter junior high school, they become concerned about studies and entrance exams.
Mothers of 3rd graders are concerned about discipline at home such as 1) cleaning up, 2) praising and scolding children, and 3) table manners. However, as children get older, mothers become more concerned with academic performance, future educational plans and daily habits that will help enhance performance on the entrance exam. This shift indicates that mothers give priority to academic performance and entrance exams over other concerns including table manners and cleaning up.

TOPIC 2 Mothers do not know how to deal with teenaged children (Figure 2).

Concerns about elementary school children include how to build character and attitudes. They are also concerned about relationships with friends.
The survey asked mothers to be specific in writing down their greatest concern in raising children. Mothers of elementary school children are concerned about 1) their children getting along with friends (5.9%), 2) how to praise and scold their children (5.0%), and 3) how to build character, nurture attitudes and teach manners (3.8%). Mothers who have children in junior high school are concerned about 1) future educational plans (8.5%), 2) academic performance (7.4%), and 3) preparing for entrance exams (6.6%) (Figure 2). As children enter junior high school, parents focus more on academic performance. Mothers of 8th graders are increasingly concerned about future educational plans and preparing for entrance exams, and for mothers of 9th graders, these issues are a priority. The responses include detailed statements showing how mothers take the initiative in gathering the necessary information on entrance exam preparation rather than relying on children to do it themselves.

Mothers find it difficult to understand their children at puberty.
Many mothers of girls in both elementary and junior high school are worried about how their daughters get along with friends as well as how to build character, nurture attitudes and teach manners. They are increasingly worried that they do not understand what their daughters are thinking or that they may not have been raising them in the right way. Meanwhile, mothers of boys in junior high school seem to be confused about the increasing independence that their sons display. For example, they worry about possible bad peer influence or when their sons do not tell them much about what is happening at school. Together with such worries about child rearing, many mothers of junior high school students report they do not feel well due to menopause or that they are searching for something worthwhile to do after raising children.

TOPIC 3 Fathers play a greater role in child rearing as children get older (Figure 3).

Spouses, friends, teachers, and mothers are the most trustworthy source of information.
We asked mothers to choose three reliable sources of information on disciplining children and on education. In order of frequency, they reported 1) their husband, 2) friends and acquaintances in the neighborhood, 3) teachers, 4) their own mother (Figure 3).Figure 3 also refers to the results of "Basic Survey on Child Rearing" (Benesse Education Research Center, 1998) that covered mothers of preschoolers to 2nd graders. As children grow up, their mothers depend less on their friends in the neighborhood, their own mothers, and teachers. On the other hand, they come to rely more on their husband for information, and from the time that children are in the 3rd grade, mothers tend to expect more information from the husband than from other sources. When children enter junior high school and begin to encounter difficulties in their studies as well as their physical and mental development, mothers want their husbands to take a greater role in child rearing.

Mothers select and choose sources of information depending on their perceptions of life and education.
Mothers who feel satisfied with their child rearing place much trust in 1) their husband, 2) friends and acquaintances in their neighborhood, and 3) their own mothers (listed in order of frequency). Mothers who are not satisfied at all with their child rearing get information from 1) their husband, 2) teachers and 3) friends and acquaintances not in their neighborhood (listed in order of frequency). Mothers who are most concerned about their children's academic performance and balancing work and housework considered the most reliable source of information to be friends and acquaintances not living in neighborhood who had similar views on life. Mothers who were worried about communication with their husband and wanted to do something worthwhile for themselves found their own mother to be the most reliable source of information. As the children get older, mothers get less dependent on their own mothers. However, their own mothers continue to be an important source of information for concerned mothers who work full-time and need their help.

TOPIC 4 90% of mothers say child rearing is enjoyable, but mothers who do not enjoy raising children feel guilty (Figure 4).

Overall, child rearing is "fun".
89.1 % of the mothers feel that raising children is very enjoyable or somewhat enjoyable. 8.4% don't feel that raising children is very fun and 0.6% don't think it is enjoyable at all. There is not much difference among school grades and the results are similar to those of a prior survey which covered mothers of children up to 2nd graders. Although most mothers have some concerns or anxieties about raising children, they seem to feel that it is enjoyable. Meanwhile out of those who do enjoy raising children very much or not at all, the biggest concern in every grade was the character, attitudes and manners of their children.

Mothers who don't enjoy raising children share less with their children.
Mothers who do not think child rearing is fun at all do not spend as much time with their children as those who say that raising children is fun. They do not feel that they have developed or grown personally as a result of having children (17.9% compared with 77.7% who find child rearing is fun) and feel, to a lesser extent, that their children show affection in their words and behavior (10.7% compared with 66.4%). On the other hand, a much higher percentage feel anxious about how their children behave (46.4% compared with 4.0%) (Figure 4).

TOPIC 5 Older children do not necessarily keep promises better due to their age (Figure 5).

Mothers want their children to improve.
Areas in which mothers would like children to improve are 1) clean up after playing (41.2%), 2) getting up and going to bed regularly (23.4%), 3) helping with housework (21.8%), 4) keeping promises (19.1%), and 5) greeting and thanking others (15.1%) (Figure 5). It seems that children are not good at cleaning up after themselves even when they get older. Mothers want older children to help more with housework.

Expectations for sons and daughters are different.
In most of the questions, expectations were higher for boys than girls. In particular, there was a big difference in such categories as:
  • keeping promises (25.9% for boys compared to 12.4% for girls)
  • getting ready for school the next day (18.0% for boys compared to 6.8% for girls)
  • brushing teeth (13.4% for boys compared to 7.3% for girls).
However, mothers do not find that children improve at keeping promises even as they get older. There were higher expectations for girls to help with housework (27.4%) compared with boys (16.5%).

TOPIC 6 Mothers believe that discipline and education should take place at home rather than at school (Figure 6).

The home plays a large role in many areas.
The survey asked about the role of the home and school in disciplining and educating children. There were 18 questions that asked about behavior and studies at school, daily habits, manners and future educational plans. More than 90% of the respondents answered that parents should teach their children at home not to be late for school, not to be forgetful, to get up and go to bed at regular times, to brush one's teeth, and mind manners in public (Figure 6). They think that they should teach their children not only basic daily habits but also manners.

The role of the family declines for both boys and girls when the children enter junior high school.
Mothers think that schools should be responsible for 1) teaching students not to make noise or walk around during class, 2) improving competence in sports and physical fitness, and 3) improving artistic skills like music and arts. They believed that the school should handle classroom behavior and activities, or whatever requires professional expertise. There was not much gender difference noted. Compared with mothers of junior high school students, a higher percentage of mothers of elementary school children answered that the following should be the responsibility of the home rather than the school:

  • schoolwork during summer vacation
  • study habits at home
  • improving sports competence and physical fitness
  • thinking about future educational plans
The home is seen to play less of a role as children get older.

TOPIC 7 Instilling daily habits in children is a problem for mothers, and they tend to give up on disciplining junior high school children. (Figure 7).

Interpersonal communication is important.
Many mothers try to teach their children to greet and thank others, value friendships, and be respectful of their elders so that they can maintain good communication patterns with others in a courteous manner (Figure 7). As many as 97.7% of the mothers of 3rd graders try to make their children keep regular habits including getting up and going to bed at the same time every day, however, there is a slight drop in the percentage of mothers of 9th graders, (91.3%), who do the same. This shows that, although mothers are concerned about their children's irregular habits, they do not seem to be instilling such basic discipline in them.

Big difference by grade for video games and helping with housework.
78.4% of the mothers of 3rd graders try to limit the time children play video games while only 60.7% of the mothers of 9th graders do so and this indicates less concern on their part. More than 60% of the mothers of elementary school children encourage their children to help with housework, but the figure is lower for junior high school students (53.9% for 9th graders). The situation differs depending on whether the mother works outside the home. 15.3% of the mothers who are housewives encourage their children to help with housework and 18.9% of mothers who are part-timers do so. The figure goes up to 21.4% for mothers who work full-time outside the home. Many working mothers try to make their children help with housework but this declines when children enter junior high school irrespective of whether or not the mother works outside the home.

TOPIC 8 Mothers of elementary school children make decisions for their children (Figure 8).

Three different views of education.
There were primarily three groups with different perspectives on how children should be educated at home. The first group indicated that they were very enthusiastic about education. These mothers spend money on education, keep up with what others are doing for their children's education and feel uncomfortable unless their children take private lessons or go to cram schools. In the second group, mothers say that parents should take charge of disciplining children, and give priority to parental views over those of children. They feel they should make decisions for their children and give them help. In the third group, husbands and wives cooperate with each other on discipline and education and they try to know who their children's friends are.

Parental attitudes regarding education change as their children get older.
Compared with mothers of elementary school children, more mothers of junior high school students are included in the first group of education-oriented mothers. This trend is further strengthened as children grow up and are about to enter senior high schools and parents get more involved in the "examination wars." As children get older, parents tend to give less priority to their own views and, furthermore, are less involved in deciding for children and in helping them. However, 45.4% of the housewives decide for their children and help them while only 38.5% of full-time working mothers do so. Housewives themselves seem to feel that they are doing too much for their children. As for the third group in which husbands and wives cooperate in child raising, there is not much difference among grades (Figure 8) .

TOPIC 9 More than 90% of children begin taking lessons of some kind by the third grade (Figure 9).

The three most popular lessons are 1) swimming lessons, 2) correspondence education*, and 3) musical instruments.
The most popular lessons for children were swimming lessons (60.1%), followed by correspondence education (47.8%) and learning how to play musical instruments (36.3%). (If we add the 18.3% of children who attend music classes, this figure jumps up to 54.6%). In the past, calligraphy and abacus were the most common but they have been replaced by swimming lessons, correspondence education and learning how to play musical instruments. 26.1% go to cram school or preparatory schools for entrance exams; 23.4% go to sports clubs or gymnastic classes, and 23.0% take language lessons, such as, English conversation.
* Correspondence education refers to educational activity materials sent to the home.

44.6% of three-year olds and 93.1% of 3rd graders go to cram schools or take lessons.
44.6% of three-year olds have already begun to take lessons (Figure 9). The figure rises in the higher grades. The figure is more than 80% (84.8%) in case of 1st graders. The figure goes up to 93.1% for 3rd graders.
When children take lessons, most start by the time they are in the 3rd grade. They rarely start taking lessons when they are older, and the ratio of children taking lessons remains at about 95% until the 9th grade.

TOPIC 10 Children are seen as acquiring competence, confidence and sense of achievement through cram schools and lessons.

Lessons in sports and arts seen to benefit children.
Lessons that were highly evaluated by parents were 1) sports classes with community teams (e.g. baseball, soccer, etc.) (37.8%), 2) swimming lessons (28.2%), 3) lessons to learn how to play musical instruments (private lessons) (25.8%), 4) ballet and rhythmical gymnastics (19.5%), 5) cram school for entrance examinations (preparatory schools) (16.4%), 6) abacus (16.3%), and 7) calligraphy (16.1%). As for reasons for taking lessons, more than 30% of the answers had to with helping children develop their sense of achievement. They report that children 1) became able to accomplish what was not possible before (38.4%) and 2) reached higher levels of achievement in the subject or skill (34.2%) 3) developed confidence and became active (28.4%), 4) became physically stronger (25.5%), and 5) made more friends (25.1%).

Mothers have different reasons for beginning lessons for boys and girls.
Mothers of boys cited the reasons for beginning sports lessons as 1) building physical strength (33.5% for boys and 17.8% for girls) 2) making friends (29.5% for boys, 20.7% for girls), and 3) becoming more courteous (10.7% for boys, 5.6% for girls). (Figure 10) On the other hand, mothers of girls referred to reasons they encouraged their children to begin lessons in the arts as 1) developing sensitivity (18.3% for boys, 25.2% for girls), 2) becoming more active in school events (9.3% for boys, 14.4% for girls) 3) giving their children a sense of achievement such as at recitals (9.1% for boys, 24.5% for girls), and 4) discovering a hobby they may enjoy in the future"(14.8% for boys, 24.1% for girls).

TOPIC 11 Educational goals and paths are decided in early childhood.

Parental expectations take shape by the 2nd grade
Among mothers with children in the 3rd grade or above, the highest level of education that they expect their children to complete are as follows: junior high school (0.0%); senior high school (10.5%); vocational school (11.0%); junior college (7.0%); university (53.3%); and graduate school (3.6%). (Figure 11) Similar trends were observed in previous research on children in the 2nd grade or younger so it seems that mothers form educational expectations when their children are still young. 68.0% of mothers who have boys in the 3rd grade or above would like them to attend university while the equivalent figure for mothers with girls is 45.7%. Mothers of boys would like them to have a higher education compared with mothers of girls.

62.1% of parents of 9th graders spend more than 20,000 yen a month for after-school lessons.
Parents with children in the 3rd grade or above spend more on education than those with younger children. 28.0% of them spend between 20,000 and 40,000 yen while only 9.9% of those with younger children spend the same amount. Only 5.5% of parents with three-year olds in preschool spend more than 20,000 yen a month on education. The figure goes up, however, to 18.8% for 3rd graders, to 26.0% for 4th graders and to 33.3% for 5th graders. The figure for 6th graders is 28.6%, and for 7th graders, it is 31.5%. Many students in the 8th grade start going to preparatory schools to get ready for entrance exams, and as a result, the figure for parents spending more than 20,000 yen a month on education, jumps to 52.4% and to 62.1% for 9th graders. More than 60% of parents who have children in the 9th grade spend more than 20,000 yen a month for after-school lessons.

TOPIC 12 Top three sources of information for mothers regarding children's education are 1) friends in the neighborhood, 2) spouse, and 3) teachers (Figure 27 and 28).

Mothers cited discipline and education as one of their biggest concerns in raising children. Figure 27 shows where they obtain their information on discipline and education. The top sources for all the seven grades were 1) friends and acquaintances in the neighborhood (61.1%), 2) spouse (48.3%), 3) school teachers (44.6%), 4) newspapers (43.6%), and 5) their own mothers (33.6%). Friends and acquaintances not in the neighborhood ranked sixth. They came to know these people 1) at school (30.1%), 2) at the workplace (26.5%), and 3) because they were the parents of their children's classmates (20.8%). In other cases, they met these friends when they lived in the same neighborhood or in the company dormitory. Other places of contact included community activities, hobby and culture centers, cooperative unions and religious groups. We can see that mothers have a large number of friends in various places.

When we compare the twelve school grades by including the previous study of pre-school children and 1st and 2nd graders (Figure 28), friends and acquaintances in the neighborhood ranked first. In fact, 71.9% of mothers of pre-school children get information through this source. The figure goes down, however, as children get older except for 1st graders and it is 57.0% for 9th graders. Mothers depend a lot on their own mothers when their children are in pre-school (53.0% and ranked third), but declines when children enter elementary school. The figure goes up slightly when children are in the 4th grade, a difficult age, but it goes down once again afterwards. The figure for 9th graders is 27.4% which ranks fifth. Similarly, dependence on pre-school or school teachers which ranked second up to the 2nd grade gradually decreases and ranks only fourth for mothers of junior high school students.

On the other hand, spouses play a more important role for mothers as children grow up. For mothers with pre-school children, spouses were only ranked fourth (39.0%) but this rose to second for mothers of 7th graders (52.2%). Fathers play an important role here. 13.1% of mothers try to get information from their children when they are in pre-school, and the figure goes up to 28.1% in the case of 7th graders. Newspapers as an information source go up from 31.2% (ranked fifth) for mothers with pre-school children to 47.5% for the 9th graders (ranked second). Pre-school and school teachers are counted on more when the children are in the critical grades and depended on less in the following years, with some fluctuation.

Many mothers get information about discipline and education from their friends in the neighborhood who also have children around the same age. They also talk extensively with their own mothers, or with pre-school and school teachers who know their children. However, when children enter the upper elementary grades, mothers depend more on their husbands, special friends, school or cram school staff members, newspapers or their own children to get more individualized and specialized information, partly because their interests shift from discipline to education. There is a transition from community-oriented information gathering to individualized information gathering after a decision is made at home.

In the next section, the survey asked the parents about their children's daily habits to examine the degree to which children display independence. The survey examined 1) what children can do themselves, 2) what parents sometimes help or tell children to do, 3) what parents often help or tell them to do, and 4) what children cannot do themselves.

TOPIC 13 Children are fairly well-prepared for school the next day (Figure 29).

Since this study covered children between the 3rd grade and 9th grade, they were fairly able to take care of daily tasks themselves. More than 70% of the children were able to do all eight tasks themselves, when sometimes helped or told to do so by their parents.

The top three tasks that children can do themselves are 1) prepare for school the next day (73.5%), 2) brush teeth (69.4%), and 3) greet and express thanks (61.4%). On the contrary, many children were often helped or told by their parents to get up and go to bed at a regular time, clean up after playing, and help with housework. The percentages for tasks that children could not do themselves were slightly higher, and 4.4% did not help with housework without being told.

TOPIC 14 Girls are more independent (Figure 30).

Girls were able to do more tasks themselves and the same result was seen in the previous survey covering pre-school children to 2nd graders. There was a big gender difference, in particular, when it came to "keeping a promise" (19.8 points - 38.7% for boys compared with 58.5% for girls), "prepare for school the next day"(16.3 points - 65.3% for boys compared with 81.6% for girls), and "brushing teeth"(14.3 points - 62.2% for boys compared with 76.5% for girls).

The next section asked mothers about the behaviors, which they would like their children to improve.

TOPIC 15 Parents socialize children to clean up after playing and daughters are expected to help more with household chores (Figure 5).

When mothers were asked with what behavior they would like their children to improve, they responded 1) clean up after playing (41.2%), 2) get up and go to bed at a regular time (23.4%), 3) help with housework (21.8%), 4) keep a promise (19.1%), and 5) greet and express thanks (15.1%).

The figures for mothers wishing boys to improve with certain behaviors were higher than girls in most items. As stated earlier, boys are less independent and this was an expected result. The figures were especially higher for boys such as "keeping a promise" (13.5 points difference - 25.9% for boys compared with 12.4% for girls), "preparing for school the next day" (11.2 points difference - 18.0% for boys compared with 6.8% for girls) and "brushing teeth" (6.1 points difference - 13.4% for boys compared with 7.3% for girls). On the other hand, mothers expect daughters to help with housework and the percentage difference between boys and girls is 10.9 points (16.5% for boys compared with 27.4% for girls). It seems that many mothers wish for their daughters to help with housework. Although both boys and girls learn home economics at school, parents expect their daughters to help with housework to a greater extent.

TOPIC 16 Children are expected to help more with household chores as they get older (Figure 31).

As the children get older, the figures for parents' expectations of the child tends to go down in almost all the items. However, children are expected to help with housework more in the upper grades and the figure for 9th graders is 8.3 points higher than that for 3rd graders.

TOPIC 17 Parents are highly satisfied with children's daily habits and independence, and are more satisfied with daughters or the second child and younger (Figure 32 and 33).

This section looks at the parents' degree of satisfaction with their children's daily habits and independence. The survey asked if parents were extremely satisfied, somewhat satisfied, poorly satisfied and not satisfied. 7.0% of the parents are extremely satisfied, 69.3% somewhat satisfied, 20.3% poorly satisfied and 2.0% not satisfied.

Parents who have daughters are more satisfied (Figure 32). When the first child is compared with the second child or younger, parents are more satisfied with the latter (Figure 33). A significant difference was found by grade or working status of the mother.

TOPIC 18 Mothers are fairly satisfied with their child rearing (Figure 34, 35, Figure 36, and 37).

Mothers were asked to what extent they are satisfied with their child rearing. The answers are shown in Figure 34. The most common answer was that they were somewhat satisfied (65.4%).

The percentage of mothers who are extremely satisfied is the lowest for mothers of 3rd graders. The figure goes up gradually to 8.9% for mothers of 7th graders. It declines in the 8th and 9th grades, although only by a small percentage (Figure 35).

There is not much of a difference by gender. However, a difference between elementary school and junior high school can be seen in Figure 36. The child's gender does not affect the satisfaction of mothers with children between the 3rd and 6th grades. In case of students between the 7th and 9th grades, however, mothers with daughters are more satisfied than mothers with sons. This seems to be related to what we have seen in TOPIC 17, which showed that mothers with daughters were more satisfied with the child's daily habits or level of independence. As observed in the previous section, mothers complain less about their daughters' schoolwork and they may find it easier to raise daughters in terms of education and discipline.

Situations in child rearing, of course, affect the degree of parental satisfaction in child rearing. Mothers who play or talk with their children are satisfied with how well they are raising their children in general. Mothers who enjoy themselves and talk with family members are also highly satisfied.

Parents take pleasure in feeling that their children have grown up and that they care for them. This experience of raising children makes them feel that they have developed themselves and this gives them a high degree of satisfaction.

The working status of the mother and the degree of her satisfaction in child rearing are shown in Figure 37. Housewives show the highest satisfaction, followed by mothers who work part-time and full-time. By grade, however, housewives with children in the 3rd to the 6th grades are more satisfied. However, for mothers with children in junior high school, there is not a large difference in satisfaction by working status. This data implies the importance of supporting working mothers who are raising children in elementary school.

TOPIC 19 Gender differences in mother's expectations of academic achievements (Figure 38 and 39).

According to research on gender, even though social reforms seek to eliminate unfairness or inconvenience for women, women themselves tend to choose behavior that supports the opposite result. In discussions of gender which concerns the unfair social treatment of women or disadvantages, this is explained by the so-called "resistance theory." The resistance theory explains why women try to live under unfair and disadvantageous conditions.

Figure 38 looks at mothers' views of their children's academic performance by gender and grade. Mothers who are women themselves have different levels of expectations for the academic performance of their children by gender. According to the figure, the percentage of mothers with daughters who are satisfied with academic performance sufficient to enter a university or junior college is about ten points higher than that of mothers with sons in each school grade. On the other hand, the percentage of mothers with sons who think that academic performance should be high in order to enter "good" universities is ten to fifteen points higher than that of mothers with daughters. Mothers reject equal educational opportunities for boys and girls; that is to say, they want their sons to enter competitive universities while they are satisfied if their daughters perform well enough to enter any university or junior college. This tendency is not very prominent among those with daughters in the 6th or the 9th grades who are preparing to go to the competitive schools.

Figure 39 looks at mothers' views of their children's schoolwork by gender and grade. A larger percentage of mothers who have daughters stated that they are indifferent toward their children's academic performance so far as school life is enjoyable for them. The difference is about ten points for 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th graders. In addition, there is a greater gender difference regarding the idea that "study is the most important now" for 6th graders who are preparing for entrance exams of junior high school. Slightly more mothers with daughters than sons think that their children will manage to enter the next level of school even though they do not study much.

TOPIC 20 The most common after-school lessons are 1) correspondence education, 2) musical instruments, and 3) cram school (Figure 40).

Figure 40 shows what kind of cram schools or after-school lessons the children now attend. The survey asked the respondents to provide multiple answers. The most common answers were 1) correspondence education with regular materials (21.6%), 2) learning how to play a musical instrument (private lessons of piano, violin, etc.) (18.6%), and 3) cram schools to prepare for entrance exams (18.4%). Other popular lessons with more than 10% of children attending were remedial classes (13.3%), calligraphy (11.7%), and swimming classes (10.2%). As mentioned in TOPIC 9, children have been attending a variety of cram schools or after-school lessons. Although many children have been to swimming schools, not many still take them. This is because the number of children who go to swimming school decreases rapidly in the 3rd grade or higher.

By gender, more boys participate in local sports teams (baseball, soccer, etc.) than girls (15.5% for boys compared with 2.8% for girls). By contrast, more girls learn how to play musical instruments (private lessons of piano, violin, etc.) compared with boys (8.5% for boys compared with 28.7% for girls).

TOPIC 21 Gender differences in mother's evaluations of after-school lessons (Figure 10)

The reasons why mothers think that cram schools or after-school lessons were good for their children by gender varied (Figure 10). Many mothers of boys cited the following three reasons related to sports in general: "have become physically stronger" (33.5% for boys compared with 17.8% for girls), "made more friends" (29.5% for boys compared with 20.7% for girls), and "became more courteous" (10.7% for boys compared with 5.6% for girls). On the other hand, many mothers of girls appreciated lessons in the arts for such reasons as: "developed sensitivity"(18.3% for boys compared with 25.2% for girls), "became active in school events"(9.3% for boys compared with. 14.4% for girls), "feel a sense of achievement at recitals, etc."(9.1% for boys compared with. 24.5% for girls), and "discovered a long-term hobby to enjoy in the future"(14.8% for boys compared with. 24.1% for girls).

TOPIC 22 Mother's opinions: What concerns mothers in child rearing

The following remarks were typical of the major concerns that mothers have. The child's gender and grade, birth order, and mother's age are given in parentheses.

  • Poor daily habits and messy
    "My daughter doesn't organize her things neatly and often forgets her homework or notices from school."(female 3rd grader; the 3rd child; 46 years of age)
    "My son just leaves everything out and will not try to clean up. He is so slow that I end up doing it for him since I cannot put up with it. I don't think it is good."(male 6th grader; the 2nd child; 43 years of age)
    "As my daughter gets older, she tends to stay up late at night and cannot get up easily in the morning; or she takes a nap in the evening and stays up late at night. I'm concerned that she may have sleeping disorder."(female 6th grader; the 3rd child; 38 years of age)
    "Since my daughter is very involved in her studies and after-school lessons, she is not good at straightening things up. I'm worried about how she will turn out because she is a girl. The fact that she is not worried at all herself is a problem."(female 7th grader; the 3rd child; 46 years of age)
    "My daughter is not at all interested in cleaning up her room or straightening up her belongings. On the other hand, she is very interested in clothing, hairstyles and fashion. She is not well-balanced."(female 9th grader; the 2nd child; 45 years of age)
    "My son doesn't wash his hands, brush his teeth or take a bath unless he feels like it. He continues to play TV games until midnight without having supper and he won't listen to me. When his father comes home late at night, he suddenly pretends to be a good son. He listens to music until one o'clock in the morning or reads comic books."(male 7th grader; the 1st child; 47 years of age)
  • Difficult to cope with the character and present attitudes of children
    "I sometimes feel bad that I get hysterical and take my feelings out on my children."(female 4th grader; the 2nd child; 41 years of age)
    "Although I give my daughter an allowance of 1,000 yen a month, she still takes small amounts of money from our wallets and won't listen to us."(female 5th grader; the 1st child; 39 years of age)
    "My daughter often lies. She says that she doesn't have any homework even when she does. She tells her teacher that she left her homework at home although she did it. Since she doesn't listen very well in class, she forgets to do her assignments. She often forgets appointments with her friends."(female 5th grader; the 1st child; 40 years of age)
    "When my daughter is in a bad mood, she is rebellious and we get mad. It's annoying that she uses bad language."(female 6th grader; the 1st child; 35 years of age)
    "My son is interested in flashy outfits just as his elder sister was in the 11th grade and he wants to have expensive brand clothing that sometimes costs several tens of thousands of yen. I know that I am also to blame since I give him money, but I don't know what I should do from now on."(male 7th grade; the 2nd child; 42 years of age)
    "Unlike when I was a child, my daughter is self-centered and does not listen to others. I am at a loss because of this generation gap."(female 9th grader; the 2nd child; 46 years of age)
  • Children and their friends and school life
    "I may be too concerned, but my son gets tired of everything easily and has no close friends. He makes new friends one after the other and he doesn't play with children who have some kind of advantage over him. I want him to be a little more cooperative with others."(male 5th grader; the 1st child; 33 years of age)
    "Although I don't want to buy games for my son, he cannot play with his friends unless he has these things. I want him to play in a more healthy manner."(male 5th grade; the 1st child; 31 years of age)
    "Some of my son's close friends smoke and ride motorbikes with other kids; they are blacklisted at school. Although my son says that they are nice guys, I am worried."(male 9th grader; the 1st child; 41 years of age)
    "Although my son stays up late at night preparing for his entrance exam, he talks on the phone with his girlfriend for one to two hours on average every day."(male 9th grader; the 2nd child; 43 years of age)
    "My daughter now refuses to go to school. I make her go to a counselor and contact the teacher at school. She seems to think that she should go to school for her future..."(mother of a female junior high student)
    "My son used to be subject to violent bullying, but recently he is verbally bullied since this doesn't leave any evidence. The child who is bullying my son goes to cram school for the junior high entrance exam and is under stress. He pretends to be a good child at home so his parents are not aware of this at all."(mother of a male elementary school student)
  • Not motivated to study; parents worried about children's future education plans
    "I want my son to play more every day even though he has to prepare for his junior high entrance exam. I think children should play outside with their friends and do sports, but the reality is ..."(male 5th grader; the 2nd child; 42 years of age)
    "My daughter is not motivated at all. When I ask her if she finds it difficult to catch up with her classes, she doesn't answer probably because my question annoys her. So I get emotional sometimes. To be honest, there are many times when I do not understand her at all."(female 7th grader; the 1st child; 45 years of age)
    "My son doesn't study at his desk. He studies only two to three days before his examinations, and his scores are not good. I am very worried about his taking entrance examinations for senior high school because he is not motivated."(male 8th grader; the 1st child; 41 years of age)
    "Although educational background is not everything in life, it is unlikely that Japan's education-oriented society will change. It is difficult for both parents and children to know if a school with higher name value is better or if a certain school suits the child."(female 9th grader; the 2nd child; 46 years of age)
    "My son just stopped studying right after he entered junior high school and his academic performance is getting worse. Maybe this was a reaction against the fact that he has been going to cram school since the 4th grade. He no longer interested in studying and this is a big concern for us."(male 9th grader; the 1st child; 41 years of age)
    "Due to the economic recession, our annual income has drastically decreased. As a result, we cannot afford to let our son take the entrance exam to enter the school he wants."(male 9th grader)
  • Children's present and future health
    "I have been careful about serving safe and healthy food at home since before I had children. As my daughter gets older and eats out more, I am very worried about environmental pollution and the effect that the food will have on her health, pregnancy or childbirth in the future. (female 5th grader; the 1st child; 42 years of age)
    "My daughter has a serious nasal allergy. She always has runny nose and she tends to touch her nose since it itches, which worries both her and others. I am concerned that she will continue to suffer from this allergy for the rest of her life."(female 4th grader; the 3rd child; 35 years of age)
    "My son is a picky eater. He only eats food that he likes. He tends to accept only what he is interested and excludes what he dislikes. I'm worried that this may affect his future."(male 9th grader; the 1st child; 42 years of age)

TOPIC 23 Parental opinions: What parents expect from schools

The questionnaire asked the respondents for their opinions, and we would like to provide some of their comments that were submitted. They range from comments about school to opinions on current education or parenting.

  • "I don't think that mothers these days know much about children other than their own. They should try to find out what other children are like." (male 3rd grader; the 1st child; 32 years of age, public school)

  • "Although teachers tell students to greet others properly, they don't know how to greet others and have a bad attitude. Above all, I want teachers to be good role models for children. I also want them to treat all children equally even though they have their own preferences. I don't want them to feel threatened by parents." (female 3rd grader; the 1st child; 35 years of age; public school)

  • "There are fewer school classes since there are fewer children. I wonder if fewer teachers are being hired. I want teachers to bring new energy to the job. Elementary school should also have teachers who specialize in physical education and the arts. Although the number of teachers per school may be decreasing, their work remains the same and the workload for each may be increasing. Would it be possible to increase the number of teachers 1.5 times or to decrease the number of students in each class to twenty-five?" (female 4th grader; the 1st child; 37 years of age; public school)

  • "I feel a little sorry for the children these days since they have so much to learn. School events are fun, but they always have to think about schoolwork afterwards and I often hear them say, "I am so tired." Even in the same city, I hear that the level of difficulty in schoolwork is different from one school to another and this bothers me."(female 4th grader; the 1st child; 37 years of age; public school)

  • "Bullying will never stop unless parents get along well with one another."(male 5th grader; the 1st child; 33 years of age; public school)

  • "I'm having a hard time since I am often asked to take over some responsibilities at the parents' association. The meetings should be held at night so that everyone (including fathers) can accept those posts!"(female 5th grader; the 1st child; 39 years of age; public school)

  • "I want teachers to see their students as they are. Please do not pay attention to only students you like or students who are good at studying. Please do not be complacent since you are looking at the surface. Some children are worried or suffering right in front of you."(female 6th grader; the 2nd child; 38 years of age; public school)

  • "I want the school to be responsible for schoolwork so it won't be necessary for children to go to cram school."(female 6th grader; the 2nd child; 42 years of age; public school)

  • "First of all, teachers should have the same attitude toward students and parents. Even teachers should not use bad language to students. I want teachers to give children advice on how they can enjoy school life more. I want them to make children clean up their schools. I want them to accept students as they are rather than pushing their ideas or feelings on them. This should apply to all schools, not only my child's school."(female 9th grader; the 1st child; 36 years of age; private school)

  • "I want to have some way of communication so that I can learn how my children are doing at school. For example, I would like more opportunities to visit the school. I want to receive a collection of my children's compositions or handouts about classes. I also want to have something so that I can learn what children think or feel not only my own children but also other children in the same class or grade. (male 7th grader; the 2nd child; 35 years of age; public school)

  • "Junior high school should be the most important time for the mental development of children, but this age seems to have a gloomy connotation. This is probably because of the parent-and-school relationship; the parents are very concerned about their children's future educational plans. Academic performance seems to be the only criteria to judge people (although they will never admit this) in the current school education and I am sometimes dismayed about this. This may be non-verbal pressure on children as well. I sincerely hope that there will be more teachers who can be a good influence on their students (Of course, we do have some wonderful teachers)." (male 8th graders; the 3rd child; 51 years of age; public school)

  • "I do not like it when teachers tell their students that they will get a high score on their reports if they do this or that.'"(female 8th grader; the 2nd child; 42 years of age; public school)

  • "My daughter worries that unless she goes to cram school she won't be able to get information about high schools and know her level of academic performance or what high school she should attend. There are not enough magazines with information in her class, and she doesn't have time to read them well. We want more information at home."(female 9th grader; the 2nd child; 48 years of age; public school)

  • "I want schools to think more about education to enhance a child's individual personality. Current education is based upon the idea that every child can adapt himself/herself to group life and those who cannot is deemed dropouts. Schools aren't doing anything about these children at present. Special classes will be necessary if they do. "(male 9th grader; the 2nd child; 41 years of age; public school)

6. Summary
By Tei Yamaoka

Educational expectation decided early
Child rearing concerns continue with no quick solutions

The three top child-rearing concerns both in the previous study and in this survey were (1) how to get along with friends, (2) how to praise and scold children, and (3) children's character, attitudes and manners. Although these worries may change depending on the age of children from three to twelve years old, it is clear that mothers continue to worry about these matters as children get older.

Since this survey covers children during a rebellious period and puberty, many comments indicate that mothers are worried or concerned about how to handle their children or that they are losing confidence in the way they are raising and disciplining their children. Some mothers also stated that they did not feel well physically and mentally.

Parents of this generation try to get information on discipline or education etc., when their children are in early childhood. This may partly be because when they were in school, deviation values and academic performance were emphasized.

In 1985, when children who are now junior high school students were born, the author conducted a survey covering mothers with children from infancy to two years of age. According to that survey, some of the most popular classes or lessons they wanted their children to take were 1) swimming, 2) music, 3) sports, 4) abacus and 5) calligraphy. The results were almost the same as those of this survey.

Parental expectations of their children's education are, in many cases, decided in early childhood, or even before children are born. Parents send children to after-school lessons or schools based on these decisions. Parents and children together have established an "external information network" regarding discipline and education.

This survey reveals that 93.1% of the 3rd graders have taken lessons of some kind after school, and the most popular was swimming. In this generation, children tend to begin taking a variety of lessons in early childhood.

Studying is a priority over daily life skills: positive and negative aspects
Daily life habits such as cleaning up, not being forgetful, or keeping promises are concerns of both parents of elementary and junior high school children. However, when children enter junior high school, the parents shift their interest from important and necessary life skills to academic performance.

This situation actually reminds us of elementary and junior high school children in China where promoting a single-child policy is promoted. In urban areas of China at present, families focus expectations on a single child, and there is the problem of what is called "good academic performance but poor life skills." The overemphasis on academic performance has produced many children with poor life skills who get high scores on school exams.

Some comments in this survey referred to the adverse effects of entrance exam competition to enter junior high school. These children had to go to cram school and study hard for the entrance exam to junior high school. They have taken various lessons since early childhood, have not have enough time to play with their friends, and are so busy studying that even on holidays the whole family cannot enjoy themselves or go on a trip together. In some other cases, parents feel sorry for their children because they are under such stress. Some parents said their children have never helped with the housework or cleaned up. Parents may make their children take lessons for their future, but when attending cram schools and excessive practice or after-school lessons are initiated by parents, this is nothing but an inappropriate approach that hampers the mental health of their children. Furthermore, the risk of growing up with no basic life skills will continue to be a big problem for both children and parents in the future.

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