Survey suggests weak parent-child relations in Japan


A survey by a Japanese government-affiliated organization indicates that parent-child relations in Japan are weaker than those in the United States, China and South Korea.

According to the survey, conducted among high school students in the four countries by the National Institution for Youth Education last autumn, 37.1 percent of Japanese students said they “respect” their parents very much, up 16 percentage points from 2008, when this question was last asked.

The figure was lower than the 70.9 percent in the United States in the latest survey, 59.7 percent in China and 44.6 percent in South Korea.

In Japan, 29.5 percent said they “feel pressure” to meet their parents’ expectations, about 22 to 34 points lower than in the three other countries.

The proportion of Japanese students who said they want to take care of their parents “no matter what” when they get old and need care stood at 37.9 percent, far lower than the 87.7 percent in China, 57.2 percent in South Korea and 51.9 percent in the United States.

Meanwhile, 21.3 percent of Japanese students said they will support their parents “financially” but “want others to take care of them,” higher than in the other three countries.

The institution said relations between parents and children in Japan may be weakening partly because of changes in social structures and ways of thinking.

The survey, which covered about 1,500 to 2,000 high school students in each country, also found low self-confidence among Japanese students, with 72.5 percent in Japan saying, “Sometimes I feel like a failure,” higher than the 35.2 percent in South Korea, 45.1 percent in the United States and 56.4 percent in China.

The proportion of those who think their dreams will “come true someday” topped 80 percent in the United States, China and South Korea, but stood lower in Japan, at 67.8 percent.

Yoichi Akashi, head of the institution’s Research Center for Youth Education, pointed to a lack of activities to help boost self-confidence and a willingness to take on challenges among young people in Japan.

  • Damir Kaliyev

    Really? More American kids respect their parents “very much” than do kids in the Confucian countries? Quite astonishing, frankly

    • Johnny LoveFive

      American kids could be lying too, didn’t say they were 100% honest either- I’m a trillionaire, I have over a trillion dollars! See?

  • Marita

    Is this adjusted for the fact that Japanese people really don’t like to “brag” when it comes to their close family? Because if not, I think that might be the reason for these results, and not necessarily weak parent-child relations.

  • Starviking

    I seem to recall a Japanese saying which goes something like this: A neighbourhood stranger is more important than a relative who lives far away.

  • Oliver Mackie

    “The survey, which covered about 1,500 to 2,000 high school students in each country…”

    Which is the approximate equivalent of what, 4-5 high schools in each country?

    Margin of error +/- 100%?

    • Sam Gilman

      Actually, that would lead to a pretty reasonable margin of error of about 2.5%

      • Oliver Mackie

        I’m certainly no statistics expert, but the figure you give is based on calculations which assume a random selection of people surveyed, does it not? If you were to select 5 actual schools and ask all students in those schools, it would be very different from asking the equivalent number from high school students picked at random across the country. If you select from a very small sample of institutions, the you get highly skewed results due the the fact that many institutions show particular characteristics among their members which are only small-minority characteristics across the wider population.

      • Sam Gilman

        The survey is here:


        And the sample details are here:


        They surveyed 1850 students in 17 schools across ten different prefectures.

        So I think the survey sampling probably isn’t an issue.

        I would take issue with comparing results between different countries too closely. One interesting thing is how the article highlights a 16-point jump in Japanese who say they respect their parents very much since 2008. That tells a different story to the overall narrative created here.

        I haven’t gone over the survey in detail (no time) but it may be worth doing so.

  • Sam Gilman

    I think the questions here are too culturally specific to be useful comparatively. Instead we should look at how the answers have changed over time in each country.

    For example, the article says “37.1 percent of Japanese students said they “respect” their parents very much, up 16 percentage points from 2008, when this question was last asked.” That’s a huge leap upwards, yet the rest of the article suggests some kind of falling behind or familial collapse.

    One should also be a little wary of self-esteem as a positive value. Although people assume that high self-esteem is good, recent research suggests a much more complicated picture, where high self-esteem may lead to social problems and relatively lower achievement.

    • Starviking

      I remember being asked whether I “respected” my parents, and had to respond that I saw that as an inappropriate question, as I loved my parents.

      Respect is something for a workplace or school relationship, and is lost more easily than love.

      • Sam Gilman

        Indeed. How does 尊敬している compare with “respect” and the connotations of the words used in other languages – and between British and Americans? (Some Americans call their fathers “sir” – which took me quite aback when I first heard it).

  • Sam Gilman

    For anyone interested, the survey results are here (in Japanese):


    (Note to JT: links to sources in the text of possible, please)