‘Pluralistic ignorance’: Why dads in Japan don’t take paternity leave

Kyodo

While a majority of Japanese men approve of paternity leave, many new fathers are afraid to take off from work because they “wrongly believe other men think unfavorably of men taking paternity leave,” a team of Japanese researchers said Wednesday.

The take-up rate in Japan for such leave stands at 3 percent in fiscal 2016. Researchers said part of the reason so few men take the family entitlement is a psychological situation known as “pluralistic ignorance,” in which a norm is privately rejected but still observed due to the faulty assumption of its general acceptance by the majority.

The team led by Hiroyuki Yamaguchi, a professor of educational psychology at Kyushu University, conducted an online survey in 2016 of men ages 20 to 49, whose workplaces offer family leave.

Of the 299 respondents, 221, or more than 70 percent, had positive attitudes toward paternity leave.

However, 118 of the 221 believed “other men had negative attitudes,” showing pluralistic ignorance. The remaining 103 believed other men shared their positive stance about men taking time off from work to care for newborn babies.

The researchers said those who believed other men looked down on the practice were less likely to take paternity leave despite their own positive stance, than those who assumed other men approved.

The results of the study were compiled in an article titled “I Want to but I Won’t: Pluralistic Ignorance Inhibits Intentions to Take Paternity Leave in Japan,” published in the Swiss academic journal Frontiers in Psychology on Wednesday.

The Japanese government aims to increase the rate of men taking paternity leave to 13 percent by 2020.