The Culture of Fatherhood in Japanese Comic Strips: A Historical Analysis
Yasumoto, Saori, LaRossa, Ralph, Journal of Comparative Family Studies
"Fatherhood, history reminds us, is a cultural invention." So said John Demos in a 1982 essay that offered an overview of the history of fatherhood in America and that has since become required reading among fatherhood scholars (Demos, 1982, p. 444; see also Rotundo, 1985). Endeavoring to demonstrate how fatherhood is created (or re-created) over time, Demos focused not so much on everyday actions as on cultural representations, and made a case for how legal and religious tracts, child rearing manuals, magazine articles, television shows, theatrical plays, and comic strips cognitively framed men and their relationships with their children. In this respect, Demos gave greater attention to the culture of fatherhood than to the conduct of fatherhood, while at the same time advancing the proposition that the two are intricately intertwined. (On the culture and conduct of fatherhood, see LaRossa, 1988, 1997. On the general theoretical relationship between culture and conduct, see Stokes & Hewitt, 1976; Swidler, 1986.)
The careful examination of a variety of cultural representations has yielded insights into how the culture of fatherhood ebbs and flows in the wake of economic and other social forces, and how these forces reciprocally are affected by manifestations of culture. In the decades since Demos's article was published, research on the culture of fatherhood has proliferated (recent works include Devlin, 2005; LaRossa, 2004, 2005; Quinn, 2006; Wall & Arnold, 2007). Almost all of this research however, has centered on North America. Studies of the culture of fatherhood in other parts of the world are noticeably lacking. (For an exception, see Book & Penttinen, 1997, who studied representations of fathers in Finish women's magazines.)
The purpose of this article is to broaden the current understanding of the culture of fatherhood, by looking to East Asia and, specifically, to Japan, where a spotlight has been shown on the minimal amount of time fathers spend with their children (e.g., see National Women's Education Center of Japan, 2007). What Japanese fathers should be doing (an indicator of culture), but are not (a statement about their conduct), has become a major area of concern, at least among certain groups (Fuess, 1997). In the minds of some, for example, the low fertility rate in Japan is attributable to men's virtual absence in child care and rearing (Boling, 1998). And the Japanese government now makes it a matter of policy to actively promote father involvement, initiating a nationwide campaign in 1999 that had as its slogan, "A man who doesn't raise his children can't be called a father" (Ishii-Kuntz, Makino, Kato & Tsuchiya, 2004; see also Ishii-Kuntz, 2003; Kagayama, 1999).
There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the culture of fatherhood in Japan has changed. Scholars have pointed to instances of how Japanese fathers are negatively characterized (e.g., see Shwalb, Nakazawa, Yamamoto & Hyun, 2004), with mention made of sarcastic popular expressions (e.g., dame oyaji, translated as "useless dads") or of Japanese television fathers portrayed as aloof. The implication is that these kinds of characterizations are more widespread today than they were before. Public opinion surveys also have revealed changes in the personal attitudes of the Japanese toward men's and women's roles, with people becoming more egalitarian in their thinking (Shwalb, Kawai, Shoji & Tsunetsugu, 1997; Suzuki, 1991). As revealing as these reports are, however, a systematic analysis of the culture of fatherhood in Japan has yet to be carried out (Gatzen, 2001). Without such an analysis, it is difficult to get a true sense of the norms, values, beliefs, and expressive symbols under which Japanese fathers have been-and are now-operating. Without such an analysis, it is impossible to chart historical trends.
Given the concern about the state of Japanese fatherhood and the fact that a historical understanding of fatherhood is indispensable for developing fatherhood policy and research, there is a genuine need for studies that carefully examine, over time, the culture of fatherhood in Japan. Our objective is to help fill this need. In an earlier project, LaRossa, Jaret, Gadgil, and Wynn (2000) content analyzed comic strips in the United States to reveal the twists and turns that America's culture of fatherhood had taken during the second half of the 20th century. Using the same methodology, we content analyzed Japanese comic strips to document the shifts in the culture of fatherhood in Japan since the early 1950s.
Why rely on comic strips to study the culture of fatherhood? Although some may dismiss comic strips out of hand, viewing them simply as sources of entertainment with storylines far removed from people's everyday experiences, research has shown, time and again, that comic strips can serve as a barometer of social trends (Giarelli & Tulman, 2003; see also LaRossa, Jaret, Gadgil & Wynn, 2001). Comic strip characters typically are adorned in clothes and hairstyles and given vocabularies that are popular at a given moment. Comic strip narratives often echo a society's political climate. The comics themselves are funny only if they can be connected to a larger context. It is for these reasons that newspaper editors will choose comic strips that they feel are most appropriate for their readers, and will discontinue a comic if they believe it is too controversial or difficult to comprehend. For their part, readers frequently will write letters to editors and ask that comics be either canceled or added. To a certain extent, then, comic strips are valued for the degree to which they are linked to the mindsets of the people who read the newspapers in which the comics appear.
Demographic changes in Japan since the end of the Second World War led us to suspect that Japan's culture of fatherhood had shifted over the past fifty some-odd years. These include: changes in the composition of the country's workforce; changes in the educational level of its population; and changes in the size of its families.
While the employment rate of Japanese women since the 1950s has remained fairly stable (hovering between 50% and 60%), the kind of work that Japanese women do has changed dramatically. The proportion of women who are unpaid family workers (e.g., those who work in family businesses but are not paid) has steadily declined over the past half century at the same time that the proportion of women workers who are paid employees has steadily increased. The employment rate of Japanese mothers with small children remains low, compared to the employment rate of U.S. mothers (in 2000, only about 28% of Japanese mothers of children three years or younger were employed full-time or part-time), but it is still at a higher rate than it was only a few years before (Osawa, 1988; Retherford, Ogawa & Matsukura, 2001; Shirahase, 2007; "Trends in Fertility and Female Labor Force Participation Rates, Selected East Asian Countries, 1950-2000").
The nature of men's work also has changed. The transition from an agricultural to an industrialized society resulted in increasing numbers of fathers spending long hours away from home. The institutionalization of the salaryman, a term which generally refers to a white collar worker who is employed in a large corporation or government bureaucracy and who often leaves for work early in the morning and does not return until late at night, further solidified the concept of the father as a good economic provider whose value to his family is primarily measured by how much effort he devotes to his job (Vogel, 1971; see also Roberson & Suzuki, 2003).
As for education, the percentage of both men and women attending Japanese universities has risen. In 1955,10% to 15% of men and fewer than 5% of women were enrolled in university programs. By late 1999, approximately 45% of men and 30% of women were enrolled. Striking, too, has been the increase in the percentage of women attending junior colleges (the rate for men has remained basically the same). Over 20% of women were enrolled in junior college programs in 1999. Thus, by the end of the 20th century, over 50% of Japanese women were pursuing college or university degrees of some kind (Retherford et al., 2001). These increases are important. One explanation for why Japanese women are engaged in paid work is that, with college and university degrees in hand, they have higher aspirations. "[T]hey want do something with the knowledge that they have accumulated," said one observer (Osawa, 2005, p. 100).
While women's employment and educational levels have risen, their fertility rate has declined. As Japan has become more industrialized and urbanized, the number of children in Japanese households has shrunk. The total fertility rate (number of children born to an average woman of childbearing age) was about 4.5 in 1950; by the early 1990s, it had dropped to below 2 (Ogawa & Retherford, 1993; Osawa, 1988; Makino, 2006). In 2008, the Japanese rate was 1.2, significantly lower than the U.S. rate, which was 2.1 (World Factbook, 2008). Thus, not only are Japanese families generally smaller now than they were before, but they also are generally smaller than families in some other industrialized countries.
Another change, more ideological in nature, that led us to suspect that the culture of fatherhood in Japan had shifted in recent years was the growing popularity of feminism. Although the Japanese women's movement can be traced to before World War II (Wakida, Hayashi, and Niagara, 1987), it was not until after the war, and basically not until the 1970s and 1980s, that Japanese feminists began to adopt Western ideas of feminism, with an emphasis on women's self-expression and self-realization (Matsui 1990). Reflective of the movement, Japanese television programs and girl-targeted-novels were more likely in the 1980s than before to show women espousing non-traditional values and engaged in paid work (Muramatsu 2002). Reflective also of the movement perhaps, Japanese industries were more likely in the 1990s than before to feature fathers interacting with children in advertising campaigns (Watanabe, 1993).
In the United States, the increase in women's employment and education and decline in their fertility rate, coupled with a rise in feminism, resulted in American fathers being depicted in the media as more involved in their children's lives (e.g., see Atkinson & Blackwelder, 1993; LaRossa, 1988). Taking the same factors into account, we hypothesized that Japanese fathers would be depicted in the media (or, more specifically, in the nation's comic strips) as more involved in their children's lives toward the end of the 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st.
LaRossa et al. (2000) content analyzed 495 humorous comic strips published in the United States on Father's Day and Mother's Day from 1945 to 1999. They built their study upon the earlier work of scholars who had relied on cartoons to chart the culture of fatherhood and gender stereotyping (in particular, Brabant, 1976; Brabant & Mooney, 1986, 1997; Day & Mackey, 1986), and, at me same time, expanded a cartoon study they had done about 10 years before (LaRossa, Gordon, Bairin, Wilson & Jaret, 1991). With these projects as a guide, we content analyzed 246 humorous comic strips published in Japan on Father's Day and Mother's Day from 1950 to 2004. We started in 1950 rather than in 1945, because a complete collection of Japanese comics for 1945-1949 could not be obtained. (Father's Day and Mother's Day in the United States and Japan have unique histories. The holidays originated in the United States in the early 20th century [LaRossa, 1997], but only became popular in Japan after the Second World War [History of Mother's Day, Japan, 1955]. Mother's Day became an official holiday in Japan in 1947. Father's Day was first celebrated in Japan in 1953 [History of Mother's Day, Japan, 2010].)
The reason for choosing Father's Day and Mother's Day comic strips is that each holiday can serve as a point of reference for the other. Thus, although our study is essentially about fatherhood, we are also interested in motherhood, as were other researchers who have studied the cultural construction of family life (e.g., Brabant & Mooney, 1999). Because the role of mother is often viewed as a complement to the role of father (Burke & Tully, 1977), it is meaningful to ask how fathers were represented in the comics, relative to how mothers were represented.
Cognizant that comic strips often mirror trends in the United States, we suspected they also would reveal developments in Japan. We had reason to be optimistic. One study of weekly Japanese comic magazines (which are extremely popular) found that the images of women in the magazines coincided with how Japanese women are generally perceived. Women, according to the author, were "often playing traditional female roles in the comics, which reflect the Japanese social institution of male-female hierarchy" (Ito, 1994, p. 91). Especially interesting, in terms of our project, is the fact that in the very same year that the Japanese government initiated its campaign to promote father involvement (i.e., 1999), the Japanese comic strip, Asatte-kun, crafted a storyline which included the government's slogan, "A man who doesn't raise his children can't be called a father." In the strip, a son asks his father, "Did you take care of me when I was a baby?" "Not really," replies the father, "I depended on your mother to raise you." Realizing the consequences of his admission (the slogan is pictured in his thoughts), the father adds, "Well, I probably won't get anything good on Father's Day tomorrow."
We reviewed every humorous comic strip published in two Japanese newspapers (Asahi Shinbun and Mainichi Shinbun) on Father's Day and Mother's Day from 1950 to 2004 (579 comic strips in all), and chose for inclusion the 246 that explicitly mentioned or implicitly alluded to Father's Day or Mother's Day, or focused on fatherhood, motherhood, or parenthood. Our decision to rely on two newspapers rather than one was to ensure that we would have a large enough set of comics to analyze. In newspapers in Japan, only two to five comic strips are generally published on a given Sunday. This is in contrast to Sunday newspapers in the United States, which might print as many as 20 comic strips in a specially-designated section. Although the number of published comic strips per newspaper is lower in Japan than in the United States, Japan has a higher percentage of newspaper subscribers. According to the Japanese General Social Survey (JGSS), 75.1% of respondents read the newspaper almost everyday, and 11.3% read the paper several times a week. Younger-age groups are less likely to look at a newspaper, relying more on the internet to keep up with current events, but 44.2% of those in their 20s still read the newspaper every day, and 26% read the paper several times a week (Kimura, 2004).
The five most popular newspapers in Japan are, in order, Asahi Shinbun, Sankei Shinbun, Nihonkeizai Shinbun, Mainichi Shinbun, and Yomiuri Shinbun. Gender, age, and social class influence people's selection of newspapers. Sankei Shinbun and Nihonkeizai Shinbun are popular among men (possibly because of their sports sections), whereas the gender distribution of readers is more equal for Asahi Shinbun (Men 47.1%, Women 52.9%) and Mainichi Shinbun (Men 47.8%, Women 52.2%). Readers of Asahi Shinbun are more likely to have higher educations and hold professional occupations. Readers of Mainichi Shinbun, on the other hand, have relatively lower educations (Kimura, 2004). We selected comic strips published in Asahi Shinbun and Mainichi Shinbun, because the two newspapers have a relatively large circulation, are popular among both men and women, and appeal to different social classes.
Among the 246 comics were the following titles: Asatte-kun, Big Boy Don-chan, Bonko-chan, Blondie (an American strip which accounted for one comic in the early 1950s), Fuji Santaro, Fuku-chan, Guutara-mama, Hai! Akko desu, Kiteretsu Kazoku, Kuri-chan, Mappira-kun, Nichiyo Papa, Sazae-san, Tonarino Yamada-kun, Nono-chan, Densuke, Hakoiri Zamurai, and Mainichi Kaasan. The four strips that had the most entries were: Asatte-kun (n = 50), Hai! Akko desu (n = 39), Guutara-mama (n = 25), and Kiteretsu Kazoku (n = 23). The four with the least (besides Blondie) were: Nichiyo Papa (n = 2), Densuke (n = 2), Mainichi Kaasan (n = 2), and Hakoiri Zamurai (n = 1). Altogether, there were 17 cartoonists represented, 13 of whom were men and 4 of whom were women. (Two comic strips, Tonarino Yamada-kun and Nono-chan, were penned by the same cartoonist.) The percentage of cartoonists who were men varied by time period: 71.4% (1950-1959), 65.9% (1960-1969), 87.5% (1970-1979), 73.8% (1980-1989), 71.6% (1990-1999), 80.0% (2000-2004).
The unit of analysis is not only the comic strips (N = 246 comics) but also the father characters and mother characters who were either pictured or referenced in the comics strips (N = 167 fathers, 207 mothers). Being "referenced" meant that a character was not shown in the comic but was talked about. Sometimes more than one father or mother would be in a strip. When this happened, we focused on the father or mother character who was the most central. A central father character might be the father who was pictured or referenced the most or was the primary basis for the storyline. When the holidays were not the theme of the comic, central characters were the fathers and mothers who were the most important. In some comics, a central father or mother character could be a grandfather, grandmother, or even non-human parent (e.g., insect or robot).
The characters in the comic strips that LaRossa et al. (2000) studied were almost always non-Hispanic white and largely middle class (with socioeconomic status determined by the characters' home furnishings and clothing). The "typical Sunday comic strip," they noted, "tends to offer a homogenized portrait of social life" (p. 379). The characters in the comic strips that we examined also were a fairly homogenous grouping - almost always Japanese and largely middle class.
Taking measures developed in one country and using them in another country is not a simple procedure (Bell, Dendo, Nakata, Bell, Munakata & Nakamura, 2004; Kohn, 1987). This is especially true if the concepts being measured do not readily translate from one language to another. To deal with this methodological challenge, we chose for our study the most concrete measures that LaRossa et al. (2000) employed. We also chose the measures that, based on prior research, best allowed us to test whether the culture of fatherhood in Japan had changed.
In the end, two measures were included. One was a measure of how often the comics explicitly mentioned or implicitly alluded to Father's Day or Mother's Day. The other was a measure of how often the father and mother characters were shown to be nurturant and supportive toward their children.
Attention Given to Father's Day and Mothers Day
With the assumption that attention given to the holidays is an indirect indicator of the esteem in which fathers and mothers are held, every comic was coded for whether it explicitly mentioned or implicitly alluded to Father's Day and Mother's Day. An "implicit" allusion would include instances where, even though the phrases "Father's Day" and "Mother's Day" were not used, it was clear that the characters were celebrating one of the holidays (e.g., by going out to dinner). If and when the holidays were mentioned or alluded to, they generally were mentioned or alluded to on their respective Sundays (i.e., Father's Day mentioned or alluded to on Father's Day, and Mother's Day mentioned or alluded to on Mother's Day). There were occasions, however, when Father's Day was mentioned or alluded to on Mother's Day, and Mother's Day was mentioned or alluded to on Father's Day. These crossovers were included in the counts.
Father and Mother Characters Depicted as Nurturant and Supportive Parents
Researchers interested in gauging the extent to which the culture of fatherhood has or has not changed often focus on whether the father characters represented in comic strips, magazine articles, advertising, television programs, etc. are depicted as nurturant and supportive parents. Do the fathers interact with their children? If so, how?
To measure nurturant and supporting parenting behaviors, LaRossa et al. (2000) relied on four questions that Coltrane and Allan (1994) had used to assess nurturant and supportive parenting behaviors in their study of television commercials. The four questions dealt with whether a central father or mother in a comic strip was: (1) verbally or physically expressing affection toward a child; (2) serving or caring for a child; (3) verbally encouraging a child during a task or activity; or (4) comforting a child or inquiring about a child's feelings and thoughts. We relied on the same four questions to measure the quality of father-child and mother-child interactions.
All comics were photocopied, with the names of the newspapers and dates of publication written on the back. Primary coding was done by the first author, who was born and raised in Japan and is fluent in both Japanese and English. (The codebook was in English and asked about the amount of attention given to Father's Day and Mother's Day and about the level of nurturance and support exhibited by the father and mothers characters.) To increase reliability, the coding process was divided into two stages: (1) pre-coding, and (2) coding and test-retest.
In the pre-coding stage, two other coders were involved. These other coders also were born and raised in Japan and were fluent in both Japanese and English. The first author reviewed the code sheet with the extra coders to make sure they understood it. A sample set of comic strips, published on the Saturday immediately before Father's Day and Mother's Day, was then used in a series of practice sessions. Having the Saturday comics allowed pre-coding to be done on a set of comics that were not among the 246 comics that eventually became the data for the study.
The first author and two other coders separately coded 10 Saturday comics, with all striving to view the comics as they believed they would be viewed in Japan. When confusion arose about how to code a particular comic, additional individuals familiar with Japan were queried about their understanding of the comic. After the first pre-coding session, the first author compared the coders' results, analyzed them for consistency, and talked to the other coders about inter-coder disagreements. This monitoring resulted in a slight rewriting of the codebook questions to make them clearer.
The pre-coding process was repeated three times, with 30 comics (10 comics x 3 pre-coding sessions) being coded. A 98.0% rate of agreement among the coders was achieved after three sessions.
Coding and Test-Retest Stage
In the coding and test-retest stage, the first author coded all 246 comic strips. While coding, the first author was not directly aware of the newspaper in which a comic appeared, or its date. The order of coding also was random. (Thus, a comic published in 1956 might be coded after a comic published in 1999, which might be coded after a comic published in 1984, and so on.) When the first author was unsure of how to code a comic, coding was temporarily halted and advice was sought from one or both of the other coders. During this stage, the first author also randomly selected 5 out of every 25 comic strips and re-coded them. These periodic checks were conducted at least 10 days after the comics were initially coded. Test-retest reliability was 97.6%.
We divided the timeline into three periods: 1950-1969, 1970-1989, 1990-2004. The cutting points were based on our looking at the findings in half-decade increments to see if there were patterns, and on the historical changes that have taken place in Japan since the end of the Second World War.
The first period (1950-1969) is when the immediate effects of the Second World War were the most acute and the influence of the United States on Japanese society was very strong. This is when the term, salaryman, first emerged in Japan. The first period is denoted, too, by a greater proportion of women who were unpaid family workers versus those who were employees. The second period (1970-1989) marks the point at which the percentage of women who were working outside the home began to exceed the percentage of women who were family workers. This period also corresponds to when the late 20th century feminist movement took shape in Japan. The third period (1990-2004) is when the employment rate for women was about 60%, and when people started to perceive the lowered fertility rate as a social problem. (Between 1973 and 1992, the total fertility rate dropped from 2.14 to 1.50.) It is also during this period that the Japanese government sparked a national conversation about the small amount of time that men spent at home (Hayashi, 2003; Ishii-Kuntz et al., 2004; Ogawa and Retherford, 1993; Osawa, 1988; Retherford et al., 2001; Vogel, 1971).
Overall, 175 of the 246 comic strips (71.1%) explicitly mentioned or implicitly alluded to Father's Day and Mother's Day. Table 1 and Figure 1 show the differences by holiday and by historical period. To highlight effects that were unlikely to have occurred by chance, we note differences that were statistically significant at the .05 level or lower (based on the chi-square test for statistical significance).
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Table 1. Percentage of Japanese Comics that Explicitly Mentioned or Implicitly Alluded to Father's Day and Mother's Day. 1950-1969 1970-1989 1990-2004 Total Father's 11 (15.3%) 38 (42.7%) (b) 30 (35.3%) (c) 79 (32.1%) Day Mother's 31 (43.1%) (a) 34 (38.2%) 31 (36.5%) 96 (39.0%) Day Comic 72 89 85 246 Strips (a) Difference between Father's Day and Mother's Day within the 1950- 1969 period is statistically significant, [X.sup.2] (1, N = 72) = 13.45, p [less than or equal to] .001 (b) Difference between 1950-1969 period and 1970-1989 period is statistically significant, [X.sup.2] (1, N = 161) = 14.13, p [less than or equal to]. 001 (c) Difference between 1950-1969 period and 1990-2004 period is statistically significant, [X.sup.2] (1, N = 157) = 8.09, p [less than or equal to]. 01
Over the 55 year period, Japanese cartoonists generally gave nearly the same amount of attention to Father's Day than they did to Mother's Day (32.1% vs. 39.0%). In the 1950-69 period, however, they were far less likely to mention or allude to Father's Day than to Mother's Day (15.3% vs. 43.1%). Also, between the 1950-1969 and 1970-1989 period, the percentage of times the cartoonists mentioned or alluded to Father's Day significantly increased (from 15 3% to 42.7%).
Table 2 and Figure 2 show the number and percentage of father and mother characters who exhibited nurturant and supportive parenting behaviors. There were no statistically significant differences between the fathers' level of nurturant and supportive parenting behavior and the mothers' level of nurturant and supportive parenting behavior. However, the extent to which fathers were depicted as nurturant and supportive increased significantly between the 1970-1989 period and 1990-2004 period (from 21.7% to 38.1%). The mothers' scores did not change.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
Table 2. Percentage of Japanese Father and Mother Characters Who Were Nurturant and Supportive Parents. 1950-1969 1970-1989 1990-2004 Total Fathers 10 (28.6%) 15 (21.7%) 24 (38.1%) (d) 49 (29.3%) Mothers 14 (25.9%) 22 (28.6%) 21 (27.6%) 57 (27.5%) Fathers Pic/Ref 35 69 63 167 Mothers Pic/Ref 54 77 76 207 (d) Difference between 1970-1989 period and 1990-2004 period is statistically significant, [X.sup.2] (1, N = 132) = 4.23, p [less than or equal to] .05
Curious about whether any of the four items in the measure of nurturant and supportive parenting behavior were especially likely to show movement toward greater father involvement, we examined the results for each item and discovered that the first and the fourth item (verbally or physically expressing affection toward a child, and comforting a child or inquiring about a child's feelings and thoughts) accounted for most of the progressive shift. Interestingly enough, these are the two items that, among the four, most directly measure the degree of warmth that a parent exhibits toward a child. We calculated the percentage of cases where a father or mother character enacted either or both of these behaviors, and found that the extent to which fathers verbally or physically expressed affection toward a child and/or comforted a child or inquired about a child's feelings and thoughts increased significantly between the 1950-1969 period and 1990-2004 period (from 5.7% to 28.6%). The difference between the fathers' and mothers' scores within the 1950-1969 period (5.7% vs. 24.1%) also was statistically significant. The difference between the scores during the other two periods was not.
[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]
Table 3. Percentage of Japanese Father and Mother Characters Who Verbally or Physically Expressed Affection and/or Comforted Child or Asked about Child's Feelings or Thoughts 1950-1969 1970-1989 1990-2004 Total Fathers 2 (5.7%) 13 (18.8%) 18 (28.6%) 33 (19.8%) Mothers 13 (24.1%) (a) 18 (23.4%) 19 (25.0%) 50 (24.2%) Fathers Pic/Ref 35 69 63 167 Mothers Pic/Ref 54 77 76 207 (a) Difference between the fathers' scores and mothers scores within the 1950-1969 period is statistically significant, [X.sup.2] (1, N = 89) = 5.11, p [less than or equal to] .05 (c) Difference between 1950-1969 period and 1990-2004 period is statistically significant, [X.sup.2] (1, N = 98) = 5.90, p [less than or equal to] .05
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Using comic strips as indicators, we asked whether the culture of fatherhood in Japan underwent a change between 1950 and 2004. Based on our analysis, we would say that the culture of fatherhood did change. We also would contend, however, that the change proceeded in steps.
Looking first at the amount of attention given to Father's Day and Mother's Day, it is clear that in the 1950-1969 period, cartoonists gave far less attention to Father's Day than they did to Mother's Day. They did so, despite the fact that the two holidays simultaneously were introduced in Japan after the Second World War. The cartoonists' relative inattention to Father's Day was influenced, we suspect, by the aftermath of the conflict. When the war ended, veterans in the United States were welcomed home as heroes and, for the most part, were able to resume their normal activities. In Japan, however, the postwar era was not a celebrated time and daily life was anything but serene. Not only had Japan suffered a defeat, it also was soon occupied by U.S. military personnel. Japanese soldiers were not generally honored, and many, in fact, were forced to serve as laborers in other countries, rebuilding facilities that had been damaged or destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers, held in the Soviet Union in particular, were imprisoned for years and never accounted for (Dower, 1999; see also Hayashi, 2003). (One Japanese comic strip, published in the 1950s but not on Father's Day or Mother's Day, depicted a young boy still waiting for his father's return [Hasegawa, n.d.].)
By the 1970-1989 period, the difference in the amount of attention given to Father's Day and Mother's Day disappeared. No significant difference was found in the amount of attention to the two holidays in the 1990-2004 period either. Thus, the first major shift in the culture of fatherhood appears to have occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.
The most direct test of the changing father hypothesis arguably is an examination of the percentage of father characters who were depicted as nurturant and supportive parents. This is the measure that researchers have consistently employed to assess the qualifications of parental figures represented in the media. The four-item measure that we used to assess the quality of father-child interaction, when plotted across time, pointed to a statistically significant increase in the level of nurturance and support between the 1970-1989 period and the 1990-2004 period. If verbally or physically expressing affection toward a child, serving or caring for a child, verbally encouraging a child during a task or activity, and/or comforting a child or inquiring about a child's feelings and thoughts are indications of being an involved father, then the comic strip fathers in the 1990-2004 period were more-involved with their children than were the comic strip fathers in the 1970-1989 period.
An examination of the two items in the four-item measure that accounted for most of the progressive shift--the first and fourth item, which together capture parental warmth--further illustrated how the 1990-2004 period was a high point in the comic strip fathers' involvement. By comparison, no statistically significant period effect was observed in the mothers' levels of involvement.
What prompted the shift in paternal nurturance and support? We believe that an increase in Japanese women's employment and education and a decline in their fertility rate, coupled with a rise in feminism, prompted a change in how cartoonists depicted Japanese fathers. It is possible, too, that the cartoonists were inspired by the government's call for greater father participation. (At least one cartoonist did include the government slogan in one of his comic strips.)
It would have been interesting to interview cartoonists to ask them what they believe motivated the shift. It would have been interesting also to query comic strip readers to discover how they interpreted the strips and whether they felt the stories had some influence on them. Whatever the cartoonists' motivations and whatever the comics' consequences, the level of nurturance and support exhibited by the father characters do appear to have increased toward the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st, indicating that the culture of fatherhood in Japan was not the same as it was before.
Interestingly, the culture of motherhood, as reflected in the measures employed here, showed no sign of change. Remarkable, too, is the fact that, with the four-item measure, the levels of paternal and maternal nurturance and support were nearly the same (there was no statistically significant difference between the father characters and mother characters at any point in time); and that, with the two-item measure, the levels of paternal and maternal nurturance and support during the second and third period were fairly close (but in the first period there was a statistically significant difference between the father characters and mother characters).
Studies of fatherhood in Japan (e.g., National Women's Education Center of Japan, 2007) generally report that Japanese men's direct child care is markedly lower than Japanese women's direct child care. Yet in the fictional world of comic strips, father characters often are shown to perform as much child care as do mother characters. Why would the comics depict fathers as more involved than they are in actuality? One possible explanation is that Japanese cartoonists have tended to do what Japanese mothers have tended to do, and tried to portray fathers in a favorable light. Japanese mothers, it has been said, will frequently "buil[d] up an artificial image of the absentee father" and "keep fathers' image alive," thus "contribut[ing] to the psychological presence of fathers" in Japanese homes (Ishii-Kuntz, 1992, p. 108; 1994). In a parallel way, Japanese cartoonists may have consciously worked to craft an affirmative image of fathers.
The disjunction between the cartoonists' renderings and the empirically-established behavior of Japanese fathers underscores the axiom that the culture of fatherhood is not necessarily in sync with the conduct of fatherhood (LaRossa, 1988, 1997). Hence, the fact that the father characters in the comics significantly increased their level of nurturance and support in the 1990-2004 period does not mean that Japanese fathers increased their involvement at the same rate-though longitudinal-based studies do find that Japanese fathers' participation in childcare has gone up somewhat in recent years (Ishii-Kuntz, 1996, 2003).
Regardless of whether the culture and conduct of fatherhood are in sync, it is important to recognize that representations in the media do make a difference, if only in the sense that people interpret their actions and others' actions through a cultural lens. In the United States, for example, men frequently will evaluate their performance as fathers according to ideals that are presented on television and in the popular press. Women also will evaluate men's performance as fathers according to these ideals, and have been known to prod men in general (and their husbands in particular) to fall into line (LaRossa, 1997, 2004). If the changes in the comic strips are indicative of broader cultural trends, it thus is likely that Japanese fathers today are being held to a different set of standards than they were before, and are being persuaded to modify their behavior accordingly.
Finally, although our study confirms that comic strips can serve as a barometer of social trends, it is important to remember that there is only so much an analysis of comic strips can demonstrate. In the United States, the historical study of fatherhood has relied on the close inspection of a broad range of materials, to include not only comic strips, but also magazine articles, newspaper reports, child rearing books, advertisements, television programs, letters between parents and educators, and interview transcripts (e.g., see Devlin, 2005; Frank, 1998; Griswold, 1993; Johansen, 2001; LaRossa, 1997; Leavitt, 2009). A comprehensive understanding of the history of fatherhood in Japan will require a similar kind of effort. Our hope is that the study reported here will encourage other investigators to carry out this wider agenda of research.
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SAORI YASUMOTO, Department of Sociology, Georgia State University, P.O. Box 5020, Atlanta, GA 30302-5020 USA.
RALPH LAROSSA,, Department of Sociology, Georgia State University, P.O. Box 5020, Atlanta, GA 30302-5020 USA.
Saori Yasumoto *
Ralph LaRossa *
* Department of Sociology, Georgia State University, P.O. Box 5020, Atlanta, GA 30302-5020 USA.…
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Publication information: Article title: The Culture of Fatherhood in Japanese Comic Strips: A Historical Analysis. Contributors: Yasumoto, Saori - Author, LaRossa, Ralph - Author. Journal title: Journal of Comparative Family Studies. Volume: 41. Issue: 4 Publication date: Summer 2010. Page number: 611+. © 1998 University of Calgary. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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