Daughter preference in Japan: a shift in gender role attitudes?
Unlike other East Asian nations where preference for sons over daughters still prevails, gender preference for children in Japan has progressively shifted from son preference to visible daughter preference over the past few decades.
The extent to which individuals’ child gender preference is shaped by their gender role attitudes and evaluate whether daughter preference. It is a reflection of convergence or persistent divergence in gender roles in Japan.
Data from the Single Persons subset of the 11th Japanese National Fertility Survey conducted by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in 1997 suggests that the effect of gender role attitudes on one’s child gender preference differs for men and women. Overall, while daughter preference is associated with nontraditional gender role attitudes for men, daughter preference is associated with traditional attitudes for women.
The tendency for preference for daughters among the Japanese has been revealed by a number of large-scale national surveys. Empirical papers on the topic have also been published in Japanese journals. Research on gender preference for children in Japan is in fact not a new area within the Japanese sociological and demographic literature.
Gender preference for children in Japan has progressively shifted from son preference to visible daughter preference over the past few decades. This may appear shocking to sociologists and demographers since it has been long believed that preference for sons over daughters prevails in populations of East Asia. There is a large volume of published research that uncovers parental son preference in countries such as China and the Republic of Korea. However, not much research has been published on the state of this issue in Japan. Such chronic lack of interest is perhaps attributable to: (1) the assumption that Japan is similar in its gender preferences for children to its neighbors because of its geographic proximity and shared Confucius background; and/or (2) the presumption that the Japanese exhibit less or no son preference given its higher level of economic development, thereby making it less appealing to examine. However, because daughter preference has become evident in Japan, it is time to give more attention to the issue.
The issue of parental gender preferences for children has implication not only for human rights but also for its demographic impact. In developing countries, salient son preference causes sex-selective abortion, female infanticide, or female neglect. Also, we know from research on China that son preference coupled with strict fertility regulations has raised the issue of imbalanced sex ratios at birth. Thus, an emergence of skewed sex ratios at birth is a likely scenario if daughter preference continues to be common in a society with declining fertility.