Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 119–135 | Cite as

Changing ideas about family care for the elderly in Japan

  • Kathryn Sabrena Elliott
  • Ruth Campbell


As rapid social changes occur around the world, accompanied by increasingly larger numbers of elderly in need of care, it is crucial to gain new knowledge of the relationship between changing social institutions and the impact of such changes on the context in which care is given to the elderly.

In Japan, the family has tradiditnally been the context in which caregiving occurs. Although family care still remains central, 22 focus groups conducted in Tokyo in 1982 and 1990 with three different age groups (N=175) reflect the significant changes which are occurring in the traditional Japanese family system-despite important continuities-and the manner in which these changes are influencing the Japanese approach to care for the elderly.

In this article, we focus on material, instrumental, and emotional reciprocity among adult generations within the Japanese family. Our data suggest that families mix traditional options with newer ones in providing care to their elders.

Key Words

Japanese family system intergenerational reciprocity inheritance changing cultural frameworks focus group methodology 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References Cited

  1. Akiyama, H., T.C. Antonucci, and R. Campbell 1990 Exchange and Reciprocity among Two Generations of Japanese and American Women. In The Cultural Context of Aging: Worldwide Perspectives. J. Sokolovsky ed. Pp. 127–138. New York: Bergin and Garvey.Google Scholar
  2. Bachnik, J.M. 1983 Recruitment Strategies for Household Succession: Rethinking Japanese Household Organisation. Man 18: 160–182.Google Scholar
  3. Campbell, R., and E. Brody 1985 Women's Changing Roles and Help to the Elderly: Attitudes of Women in the United States and Japan. The Gerontologist 25: 584–592.Google Scholar
  4. Cattell, M.G. 1990 Models of Old Age Among the Samia of Kenya: Family Support of the Elderly. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 5: 375–394.Google Scholar
  5. Cox, C. and D.E. Gelfand 1987 Familial Assistance, Exchange and Satisfaction among Hispanic, Portuguese, and Vietnamese Ethnic Elderly. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 2: 241–255.Google Scholar
  6. Davis-Friedmann, D. 1991 Long Lives: Chinese Elderly and the Communist Revolution (expanded edition). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Hirosima, K. 1987a Recent Change in Prevalence of Parent-child Co-residence in Japan. Journal of Population Studies (Jinkogaku Kenkyu) 10: 33–41.Google Scholar
  8. Hirosima, K. 1987b The Living Arrangements and Familial Contacts of the Elderly in Japan. Working Paper 87–087. Laxenburg, Austria: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.Google Scholar
  9. Ikels, C. 1983 Aging and Adaptation: Chinese in Hong Kong and the United States. Hamden, CT: Archon Books.Google Scholar
  10. Japan Aging Research Center (JARC) 1991 Aging in Japan. Tokyo, Japan: International Publication Series No. 2.Google Scholar
  11. Lebra, T.S. 1979 The Dilemma and Strategies of Aging Among Contemporary Japanese Women. Ethnology 18: 337–353.Google Scholar
  12. Lebra, T.S. 1989 Adoption Among the Hereditary Elite of Japan: Status Preservation Through Mobility. Ethnology 28: 185–218.Google Scholar
  13. Lee, S.M. 1986 Dimensions of Aging in Singapore. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 1: 239–254.Google Scholar
  14. Long, S.O. 1987 Family Change and the Life Course in Japan. The Cornell East Asia Papers. Ithaca, NY: China-Japan Program, Cornell University.Google Scholar
  15. Manning, P.K., M.L. Miller, and J. Van Maanen 1988 Editors' Introduction. In Focus Groups as Qualitative Research, Qualitative Research Methods 16. D.L. Morgan. P. 5 Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  16. Nakane, C. 1970 Japanese Society. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  17. Okazaki, Y. 1990 Social Factors Behind the Aging of Society. In Responding to the Needs of an Aging Society. Pp. 7–14. Tokyo, Japan: Foreign Press Center.Google Scholar
  18. Selig, S., T. Tomlinson, and T. Hickey 1991 Ethical Dimensions of Intergenerational Reciprocity: Implications for Practice. The Gerontologist 31: 624–630.Google Scholar
  19. Shomaker, D. 1990 Health Care, Cultural Expectations and Frail Elderly Navajo Grandmothers. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 5: 21–34.Google Scholar
  20. Smith, R.J. 1974 Ancestor Worship in Contemporary Japan. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Sung, K. 1991 Family-Centered Informal Support Networks of Korean Elderly: The Resistance of Cultural Traditions. Journal of Cross-Cultural Georontology 6: 431–447.Google Scholar
  22. Togonu-Bickersteth, F. and E.O. Akinnawo 1990 Filial Responsibility Expectations of Nigerian and Indian University Students. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 5: 315–332.Google Scholar
  23. Tsuya, N.O. and L.G. Martin 1992 Living Arrangements of Elderly Japanese and Attitudes Toward Inheritance. Journal of Gerontology 47: S45-S54.Google Scholar
  24. Weihl, H. 1988 Household, Family and Intergenerational Interaction of Rural Arab Elderly in Israel. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 3: 121–138.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathryn Sabrena Elliott
    • 1
  • Ruth Campbell
    • 2
  1. 1.Medical Anthropology ProgramUniversity of California, San FranciscoSan Francisco
  2. 2.Turner Geriatric ServicesThe University of MichiganAnn Arbor

Personalised recommendations