The birth and development of a child is the product of genetic and parental, natal, familial and sociocultural factors.
In the past five decades, tremendous progress has been made regarding the health of children in Japan. The nation’s under-5 mortality rate is among the world’s lowest.
Such progress can be attributed to an improvement in health-care facilities, better quality food, air and water, and an increase in per capita expenditure on health and welfare.
Culture in its simplest but broadest sense is the way of life of individuals living in a group or a society. The daytime activities of all individuals, including children, are affected by each other’s actions and by their environment. Control over the physical environment can be achieved to some extent by scientific and technological innovation. However, control over the psyche of individuals and groups remains a challenge. Freedom is demanded by modern society, and this has a crucial effect on child rearing.
Traditionally, the rearing of children in Japan was conducted by mothers or female members of the family and by grandparents. In postwar Japan, industrialization and economic development have brought about a change in child rearing practices. This is primarily due to the working hours of parents and the introduction of child-care facilities.
In general, the delivery of babies in Japan is comfortable and safe since all births are attended by trained health personnel in established health facilities. The care of newborns during the first week of life is carried out in hospitals.
The number of women who breast feed their babies has been decreasing over the past five decades. Newborns as young as a day old are bathed in bathtubs. The practice of mothers carrying their baby on their back has largely been replaced by the use of baby carriages. Discrimination against female babies is steadily decreasing.
Children are encouraged to perform daily chores at an early age, a practice that helps them to gain confidence. An abundance of chocolates and junk food are introduced very early in Japanese children’s lives; consequently, dental problems are also seen at early age.
Children receive lots of pocket money from parents and grandparents. While this encourages them to play, it also creates unnecessary competition and dissatisfaction among children. Major festivals held for children include Hinamatsuri, Tanabata, Shichigonana and Kodomo no Hi. Teenagers participate only in a few religious and cultural practices, which may affect their social and psychological development.
Japan’s island geography, its homogenous ethnicity, common cultural practices and the existence of a single language all contribute to a difficulty for foreign children in finding acceptance among their peers in Japanese nurseries and schools. As a result, problems are frequently experienced by foreign children and occasionally by Japanese children. Efforts are made, however, by both organizations and individuals, to mitigate such problems. The introduction of a second language from early childhood could help alleviate such problems.
While most parents are knowledgeable about raising children, they often do not have sufficient time for their babies and young children. Recently it has been observed that some young fathers are involved in child-rearing despite their busy work schedules, but this is still more an exception than the rule. For their part, most mothers keep busy with office or domestic work, or both. Those who do not keep busy in either of these activities keep themselves occupied with sports, cultural activities and shopping. Some of them even find extramarital affairs interesting.
Whatever the reason, the end result is less time for infants, toddlers and children, which can lead to familial disturbances, like divorce, neglected children, child abuse and juvenile crime. Efforts to address these problems may to an extent make greater use of contemporary science and technology. But this risks turning child-rearing into a mechanical and institutional occupation.
Those who desire to have children need to spend sufficient time with them. To this end, a welfare nation should always strive to create appropriate family policies. The availability of sufficient time for parents to raise their children is a necessity in present-day Japan. At least one parent should be home in the morning when the child leaves for school and when the child returns. A vital point in child rearing is balancing time spent at work and with the family.
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