The family cracks under strains it was not meant to bear. It’s an institution as old as civilization. Are its days numbered?

Reports last month in Shukan Gendai and Shukan Post magazines stir dark thoughts. Whatever you think your children will do for you as you age, Shukan Gendai warns, “you’re expecting too much.” Shukan Post’s headline spells it out: “People at life’s end abandoned by their children.”

A man, now 78, doted on his grandson. He showered gifts on him. He financed his education, sending him to the best schools. The boy’s gratitude, and his parents’, was like a drug. The more he got, as Shukan Gendai tells it, the more he needed.