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First published in ejcjs on 5 July 2007

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A Comparison of Social Capital Between Parents in Single and Two Parent Families in Japan


Cherylynn Bassani

Post-doctoral Fellow
Centre for Community Child Health Research
University of British Columbia

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This paper examines differences in social capital that parents in single- and two-parent families in Japan experience. The extant literature has not empirically tested these differences, and thus this research provides a better understanding of the differences in capital that exist between adults in these two family structures. Previous work has suggested that single-parent families in Japan might experience different family contexts than those experienced by single-parent families in western countries (Bassani 2007a). Specifically, it has been noted that single-parent families in Japan might be embedded in a rich family network that leads them to have more capital than their counterparts in two-parent families. Examining the capital that is available to adults in both family structures is a good first step to better understanding this situation. Using the National Survey of Families data, the current study found that in most cases, adults living in two-parent families have slightly more social capital than adults in single-parent families. Although statistically significant, these differences are small. This research raises many questions regarding social capital among adults in single- and two- parent family structures, but also in the measurement of social capital.


There have been few empirical studies about single-parent families in Japan, due, in part, to the cultural inappropriateness of examining this family structure and a lack of available data. In response to this gap in the literature, this paper examines differences in social, financial, and human capital between single- and two-parent families in Japan. Reporting these differences makes a valuable contribution to understanding these two types of Japanese family structures and the members that comprise them. Although scholars have reported that the number of single-parent families in Japan has been increasing, empirical tests have not examined how the characteristics of various family structures differ (Kumagai 1996; Retherford, Ogawa and Sakamoto 1996; Shields 1995). In the western literature, social, financial, and human capital all have been identified as key resources that influence family members' well-being (e.g., Coleman 1987, 1988; Parcel and Dufur 2001; Parcel and Menaghan 1994; Willms 1999, 2002). Because little is known about differences in capital in and across different Japanese family structures, our understanding of the well-being of Japanese adults and youths has been limited.

Social Capital

Social capital consists of the products of social relationships – such as trust, loyalty, security and self-confidence – that people develop within groups (e.g., the family, school, work-place, the community). The concept of social capital is embedded in a larger theoretical model, social capital theory, which has five fundamental dimensions (Bassani 2007b). First, the theory asserts that various forms of capital (i.e., social, financial, human, cultural, and material) influence well-being, though social capital is arguably the most crucial. Second, it is understood that a positive relation between social capital and well-being typically exists within the general population. When examining marginalized populations, however, researchers have suggested that social capital may have a curvilinear relation between social capital and well-being (Kao 2004). Also, the theory maintains that social capital is created in a complex process (the theory's third dimension), through which social resources are transformed into social capital (its fourth dimension). In this process, structural (who is in the groups) and functional (how group members interact) social resources combine and social capital forms. When deficiencies in either structural or functional resources occur in a group, resource depletion occurs. This then limits the formation of social capital and ultimately hinders well-being. The fifth dimension of social capital theory is that the social capital formed in two mezzo groups (such as the family and school) interact to create a specific context that influences an individual's well-being (Coleman 1990). Primary (the family)-secondary (all other groups) or secondary-secondary groups are bridged when individuals belong to both groups. This theory has been largely developed and tested in the United States, though scholars recently have recognized the importance of examining the theory and the concept of social capital outside of the culture in which it first was developed (Bassani 2003, 2007a, 2007b; Guzman et al. 2003; Morrow 1999).

As I have acknowledged elsewhere, we should not assume that the definition of social capital, and perhaps even the theory of social capital, is transferable cross-culturally (Bassani 2003, 2007b). Instead, a reflective and reflexive understanding of the concept and theory is needed. Coleman (1990) was the first to question whether social capital works similarly in different groups—though he focused on mezzo groups in society, such as the family, school, and community, and did not use a cross-national perspective. As scholars test the theory with data from outside mainstream U.S. populations and within other ‘western' populations, findings indicate that social capital does not have a consistent relation with well-being cross-nationally, across various ethnic groups and across various measures of well-being. Specifically, in immigrant and non-western samples, the theory's premises have not been fully supported (Ream 2003). In addition, as I argued elsewhere (Bassani 2007b), the two components of social capital—functional and structural social resources—may not hold equal importance in creating social capital among different cultures and within various mezzo groups, both within the same nation and cross-nationally.

In previous analyses, when testing the theory with a Japanese sample, family structure, a widely used measure of social capital, did not have the predicted relation with youths' well-being; as youths living in single-parent families tended to attain higher math scores than youths from two-parent families (Bassani 2007b). Within the western literature, however, living in a single-parent family is typically associated with lower academic achievement, or lower general well-being, regardless of how it is measured (Coleman 1987; Cook and Willms 2002; Dunifon and Kowelewski-Jones 2002; Jeynes 2002; Parcel and Dufur 2001; Parcel and Meghnan 1994). Researchers have argued that youths in single-parent families possess lower social capital than their peers in two-parent families. In single-parent families, structural resource deficiencies are present because only one adult lives in the household with the children, and thus functional resource deficiencies erupt due to the limited time that the youth(s) and each parent can spend together. This results in resource depletion, which lowers the amount of social capital in this family structure. However, the opposite has been found amongst Japanese youths. Thus the question that must be asked is: Do Japanese youths living in single-parent families have more social capital than youths living in other family structures? It is plausible that Japanese youths who live in single-parent families are encapsulated by different social structures both in and outside of the family that lead to their heightened social capital. This paper tests the question of the source of youths' capital by examining the differences in social capital that single- and two-parent families have in Japan.



The data used to compare single and two-parent family structures come from the Nationwide Survey on Families (NSF), which was conducted in 1999 in Japan. These data are held and provided to researchers by the Information Centre for Social Science Research on Japan in the Institute of Social Science at the University of Tokyo. Created by the National Family Research Committee of the Japan Society of Family Sociology, the survey was conducted by Central Research Services, Inc. and funded by the Japanese Ministry of Education. This is a cross-sectional data set based on a survey that is expected to be conducted every 10 years.

To obtain a nationally representative sample of Japanese families, multiple-stage random sampling was employed. Sampling was conducted in 535 cities, towns, and villages throughout the nation and the survey response rate was 65.52% (n = 6985 respondents) (NSF 1999).

All participants in the NSF study were categorized as belonging to one of three family structure categories: 1) separated and single or widowed, 2) currently married or living in a common law arrangement and 3) single and never married. For the purpose of this paper, I was only interested in examining single- and two-parent family structures that included children (young or old). To refine the dataset, I divided it by cross-tabulating two variables: number of children and current marital status. Respondents who fell into the first two family structures (participants that lived in either single- or two-parent families) and who had children were kept in the sample, while all other respondents (those without children) were removed. In the third family structure (single, never married), none of the respondents had children. Due to the difficulties in measuring family structure, within the single-parent family structure, respondents who had been widowed or divorced and those who had experienced common-law separation are confounded. This is a limitation of the study that future studies will need to consider.


Social Capital - Social capital is intrinsically difficult to measure, and as such, researchers tend to examine the structural and functional social resources that comprise social capital (Bassani 2007b; Guzman et al 2003; Parcel & Dufur 2001; Parcel & Menaghan 1994; Teachman et al 1997). In an effort to test differences in social capital between single- and two- parent families, this study examines both structural and functional social resources, Measures of financial and human capital are also examined. Most of the categorical variables were dummy-coded to represent either having or not having a particular resource. Table 1 operationalizes the continuous variables. Although cultural and material capital both have a direct theoretical link to well-being, such measures were not found in the NSF study.

Five categorical measures of structural social resources were examined by looking at whether the respondent's father, mother, child, child's spouse or grandchild lived with him or her. In addition, eight continuous measures of structural social resources were examined: number of people living in the household, number of children that the parent had and the number of grandparents, aunts/uncles, nieces/nephews, grandchildren, (ex)partners sisters/brothers and (ex)partners in-laws with whom the parent had a relationship.

Four categorical measures of functional social resources were also examined: the city size that the respondent grew up in (a village, suburb, or a large town) and whether or not the respondent quit his or her job right after getting married. Also, thirteen continuous measures of functional social resources were examined: relationship with child, frequency that the parents dine, play, go out, study and converse with their child, and the number of days per month and hours per day that the father worked when the adult parent was a child. In addition, three parent health measures, general health, stress and depression, which influence the functioning of parents in the family were also examined. Although these measures have not been identified as functional social resources within the family and youth literatures, other disciplines, such as psychology and health studies acknowledge the importance of health in promoting social capital (or social bonding) within the family (Harpham 2004; Harpham et al 2002). The first two of these health indicators are conceptualized in Table 1.

A depression scale was created by combining eight variables that asked the degree to which the participant: (1) was bothered by mental and or physical health problems over the last year, (2) felt down, (3) felt depressed, (4) could not focus, (5) lost his or her appetite, (6) felt that he or she wanted to do nothing, (7) could not sleep, and (8) felt lonely over the past year. Respondents had the option of choosing: Never, 1 or 2 times a week, 3 or 4 times per week, or almost every day. When assessed with a factor analyses, these eight variables had one large Eigen of 3. 9. In addition, a statistically significant Cronbach's alpha of 0.85 was found, illustrating that this scale has high inter-item reliability and that it represents one latent concept, which is indicative of depression experienced over the past year. As illustrated in Table 1, scores on this scale ranged from 8, suggesting that the adult had not experienced depression over the past year, to 32 points, suggesting that the adult had experienced depression on a daily basis over the past year.

According to social capital theory, the more adults in the home, the greater the potential for positive family communication and thus the more potential for positive relationships (functional social resources) among family members. However, having more children also means greater resource depletion, despite the fact that siblings will help to create both structural and functional social resources in the family. Resource depletion is theorized to occur in families that have more children since parents necessarily will have less time to spend with each child. In addition, the greater the number of (positive) relationships an individual has within their family, the more social capital that will develop within that family. As such, as the number of family members that parents have a relationship with increases, the more social capital that is developed. This measure of social capital is purely structural and does not capture the functional dimension. Unfortunately the NSF data does not examine functional social resources within the extended family. Social capital theory also purports that the relationship that one has with their child is particularly important, since it is formed within the primary mezzo group. As the relationship with one's child improves, more social capital is apt to develop in the family. This study projects that parents and children who spend more time together are doing so because they have a positive relationship.

In addition, social capital is thought to be richer in smaller communities due to a decrease in resource depletion that occurs in communities that have stronger functional social resources. Also, quitting one's job after marriage may be associated with a drop in social capital because work and friendship networks are broken or severed in such circumstances, thereby limiting or eradicating the social capital that might have otherwise been held within the work group. Although work and friendship networks are secondary to the primary family group, they are nevertheless important in bridging the family to other groups, such as community, school, volunteer and other groups that in turn hold social capital (Burt 2000).

It is worthwhile to note that current and past social capital are measured in this study. Past social capital is examined when the adult was a child and after they first were married. The vast majority of studies only examine social capital in its present form, and thus a life course void in the literature exists. This paper makes one small step towards understanding differences in social capital over the life course, although this is not the purpose of the paper.

Financial & Human Capital - Several categorical variables were also examined to test differences in financial and human capital that respondents in these two family structures held. Although the focus of this paper is on comparing social capital between adults in single- and two parent family structures, as noted previously, social capital theory maintains that other forms of capital are also important (though to a lesser extent) in understanding differences in well-being.

Financial capital was measured by examining whether the respondent: 1) lived in public housing, 2) owned their own house, 3) owned their own condo, or 4) owned their own apartment. In addition, the human capital available to the respondent during his or her childhood was assessed. Respondents were asked whether their fathers held a managerial or director-level job when they were growing up. This was contrasted with having any other type of job that would indicate a lower socio-economic status (e.g., general employee, self-employed in a primary business, self-employed in a tertiary business, part-timer, or other) than a director or manager.

The respondents' gender also was examined, though it was purely a contextual variable.

Table 1: Continuous Variables; Social Capital; Functional Social Resources.

Relationship with child Range: 1-4
Good, relatively good, relatively bad, bad
Frequency I ____ with child:
dine, play, go out with, study, converse
Range: 1-6
Everyday, 4-5 times a week, 2-3 times a week, 1 time a week, yearly, never
Parent's Health:
General Health Status

Experienced Depression Scale
___responsibility is too much
family, work
Range: 1-5
Very good, good, neither good nor bad, bad, very bad

Range: 8 (never) -32 (daily)
Many times, occasionally, rarely, never

Structural Social Resources
Number people in household Open ended
Number of children Open ended
Number ____ have a relation with: grandparents, aunts/uncles, daughters/sons in-law, grandchildren, (ex)partners sister/brother in-laws, (ex) partners sisters/brothers Open ended
Days/month father worked Open ended
Hours/ day father worked Open ended
Financial Capital
Individual Income
Household income
1= no income
2= 10 000 yen or less
3= 10 001 to 1 290 000 yen
4= 1 300 000 to 1 990 000 yen
5= 2 000 000 to 3 990 000 yen
6= 4 000 000 to 5 990 000 yen
7= 6 000 000 to 7 990 000 yen
8= 8 000 000 to 9 990 000 yen
9= 10 000 000 to 11 990 000 yen
10=12 000 000 or more yen


The means (continuous variables) and frequencies (categorical variables) of all measures of capital are provided. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to test the statistical significance of the differences in the means and frequencies of the various forms of capital between respondents living in single- and two-parent family structures. These analyses, although rudimentary, are important in understanding the disparities in social, financial, and human capital that exist between the two family structures.

Results and Discussion

The results are presented in Tables 2 and 3. Table 2 illustrates the differences between the two family structures across the categorical variables, while Table 3 illustrates the statistical significance of the differences in the continuous variables' mean scores. In both tables, asterisks on the right side denote statistical significance. Nearly all of the percentage and mean differences were found to be statistically significant.

Table 2: Differences in Social, Financial and Human Capital among Individuals in Single vs. Two-Parent Family Structures: Categorical Variables


Single-Adult Family

Two-Adult Family





Social Capital      
Structural Social Resources      
Father lives with you



Mother lives with you



Child lives with you



Child's spouse lives with you



Grandchild lives with you



Functional Social Resources      
Grew up in a village



Grew up in a suburb



Grew up in a large town



Quit job after marriage



Financial Capital      
Lives in public housing



Lives in own house



Lives in condo



Lives in an apartment



Human Capital      
Father had specialist job







SS statistical significance * .05; ** .01; *** .001
Single-parent family n=368
Two-parent family n=5039

Table 3: Differences in Social and Financial Capital among Individuals in Single vs. Two-parent Family Structures: Continuous Variables


Single-Parent Family

Two-Parent Family





Social Capital      
Structural Social Resources      
Number people in household



Number of children



Number grandparents have relation



Number aunts/uncles have relation



Number nieces/nephews have relation



Number of daughters/sons in-law have relation



Number of grandchildren have relation



Number of (ex)partners' sisters/brothers in-law have relation



Number of (ex)partners' sisters/brothers have relation



Functional Social Capital      
Relationship with child



Frequency dine with child



Frequency play with child



Frequency go out with child



Frequency study with child



Frequency converse with child



Number of days per month father worked



Number of hours per day father worked



Health Status






Family does not understand me



Family responsibility too much



Work responsibility too much



Financial Capital      
Individual Income



Household Income




SS statistical significance * .05; ** .01; *** .001
Single-parent family n=368
Two-parent family n=5039

Social Capital

As illustrated in Tables 2 and 3, there are statistically significant differences in the levels of social capital between the adults who live in single- and two-parent family structures; these differences are similar to those reported in western data sets.

Structural social resources - When examining structural social resources, a significant difference is evident between the two family types. As shown in Table 2, among the respondents that lived in single-parent families, nearly twice as many lived with their fathers (10.2% vs. 5.4%) or mothers (19.4% vs. 10.4%) as lived in a two-parent family. Within the two-parent families, 76.1% reported that their children lived with them, though this figure was only 65.6% among the single-parent family respondents. Albeit, some respondents had children that were adults who lived outside of their biological nuclear family home; analyses not presented in this paper showed that this difference existed among parents who were aged and in mid-life. This suggests that more minor children and youths were living in two-parent families than single-parent families. Future research will need to address this difference by examining the residence patterns of children after divorce. It is likely that children are taken into their father's care after a divorce and then incorporated into a blended family if the father remarries. Evidence for this is present in the literature, though it is not based on empirical analyses (e.g., Kumagai 1996).

Two-parent families had a higher percentage of grandchildren living with them; 9.1% of respondents residing in this family type reported to have their grandchildren living with them, compared with 5.9% of the respondents in single-parent families. No statistical difference was present between the percentages of children's spouses living with either of the two family structures.

As would be expected, the overall number of people in the family household significantly differed between the two family structures. As shown in Table 3, on average, the mean household size among the two-parent family sample was 3.9 people, while the mean was only 2.5 people among the single-parent family structure. In addition, the total number of children in two-parent families (2.2) was significantly larger than the number of children that respondents in lone parent families had (1.8). If we examine the adult-to-child ratios in both of these family structures, we find that respondents in single-parent families have a lower ratio (1 adult to 1.8 child) than respondents in two-parent families (1 adult to 1.1 child). Thus far, the results suggest that resource depletion occurred more among single-parent respondents than among those respondents in two-parent families, and as a result, this would hamper the development of social capital among respondents in the former family structure.

Structural social resources among respondents in single-parent families also appear to be significantly lower when the number of specific family relationships is examined. Respondents in two-parent families were found to have significantly more relationships with nieces and nephews, daughters-in-law and sons-in-law, grandchildren, (ex)partners' sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, in addition to partners' sisters and brothers, as compared with respondents in single-parent families. With the exception of the number of relationships with (ex)partners' sisters and brothers, the actual mean differences were small, though statistically significant. No difference was reported between the two groups in terms of the number of relationships that respondents had with grandparents and aunts and uncles, suggesting that parents retained a similar number of relationships in which their extended family member is a generation older than they are. These findings also illustrate a break-up in in-law relationships that partners experience after the divorce, separation, or death. Respondents living in married, two-parent family structures reported to have relationships with nearly 3 (2.6) of their spouses' sisters and or brothers, while the single respondents kept in touch with less than 1 (0.6) of their ex-spouses' sisters or brothers. This stark difference likely reflects the value of filial piety – a value system that emphasizes the tantamount devotion to blood relations.

Functional social resources When examining the measures of functional social resources, a similar trend is noted: The strength of the relationships that parents had with their children and how often they spent time together were both significantly higher among respondents in the two-parent family group. Again, these differences were all small, though significant.

The sizes of the communities where respondents grew up were also compared. The findings illustrate that a higher percentage of respondents living in a two-parent family (46.8%) grew up in villages, whereas 39.8% of respondents living in single-parent families grew up in this type of community. It also appears that more single-parent respondents grew up in large towns (26.5%) compared to respondents belonging to two-parent families (20.1%). These are moderate differences, which might suggest that from an early age the respondents in two-parent families had more social capital available to them during adolescence.

The percentage of respondents growing up in a suburb did not significantly differ between the two groups. Studies examining the effect of social capital in a previous life stage have yet to be conducted. It is feasible that the development of rich social capital during the adolescent or child life stages has a long-lasting effect on individuals' well-being and the well-being of the families that they create. This is a fascinating proposition that further studies need to examine.

Finally, 6.4% more single-parent family respondents quit their jobs after they got married (26.5% vs. 20.1%), suggesting that more single-parent respondents were disposed to have having less social capital right after getting married or living in common-law arrangements with a partner. Certainly, specific factors may be related to wives quitting their jobs after marriage, which are subject to geographic relocation, spousal relations, traditional values, among other factors. Future examination of such factors may prove useful in aiding our understanding of the creation of family social capital.

Two health measures also were included in the comparison, as they have been shown to affect parents' ability to function in the family; the poorer the parent's health, the less social capital that will develop due to functional social resource deficiencies. In terms of mental health (depression) and general health, respondents in single-parent families had significantly higher mean depression scores (12.8) than respondents in two-parent families (11.7). Also, the general health of this first group of respondents was significantly poorer. As illustrated in Table 3, general health scores were measured as a continuous variable, illustrating that single-parent families had a mean score of 2.6 points (in between good health and neither good nor bad health), while the other group of respondents had a mean score of 2.3 points (also in between good health and neither good nor bad health, though closer to good health). When this variable is dichotomized to compare very good and good health to all other health responses (neither good nor bad, bad and very bad health), the frequency difference between respondents from the two family structures is again statistically significant. Although not reported in Table 3, I found that 70.6% of two-parent family respondents reported having good and very good health, while fewer respondents in single-parent families (60.3%) fell into this health category.

Three stress-related variables were assessed: my family does not understand me, my family responsibility is too much, and my work responsibility is too much. Like depression, increased parental stress can be associated with lower levels of social capital. Although not social capital per se, one's mental health influences social capital, as stress negatively influences the functional social resources efficiencies in, or functioning of, the family. As suggested in Table 3, single-parent family respondents all had a greater propensity to agree with the stress-related statements, suggesting that they are likely experiencing more stress than the adults who live in the two-parent family structure. Again, these differences were small, yet statistically significant. These differences involving general and mental health and stress indicate that in every instance, respondents that are single-parents are experiencing greater health issues, which has a negative influence on family functioning, and thus hampers the creation of social capital.

The last functional social resource that was measured was the number of days per month and hours per week that the respondents' fathers worked when they were 15 years old. A small, statistically significant difference in the days worked per month existed, indicating that respondents who currently lived in a single-parent family had fathers who had worked 1.2 days more (22.4 days) than the respondents who lived in a two-parent family (21.2 days) as a youth. This suggests that parents in single-parent families may have spent slightly less time with their fathers when they themselves were youths than parents who currently live in two-parent families. Again, this finding points to the need for researchers to examine social capital in previous life stages to understand the long-term effects of social capital on individuals' well-being.

The vast majority of the findings that have been reported suggest that participants in single-parent families have less structural and functional social resources compared to those in two-parent families. This implies that respondents in single-parent families have less social capital available to them than respondents in two-parent families.

Financial Capital

Most measures of financial capital showed that significant differences were present between respondents in the two family structures. Differences were found between single- and two-parent respondents and their individual and household incomes. Respondents in two-parent families tended to have a combined household income of between 8,000,000 and 9,990,000 yen, while respondents in single-parent families had a household income between 2,000,000 and 3,990,000 yen. Statistically significant variations among the respondents' individual incomes also were noted. Both groups had a mean family income in the 4,000,000 to 5,990,000 yen range, though respondents that were single parents were closer to the bottom of this range, while respondents in two-parent families were in the middle. Looking closer at the income differences between the two types of respondents, I found that nearly twice the percentage of single-parent respondents had no personal income (14.0%), as compared to respondents in two-parent families (8.0%). These findings illustrate clear differences in financial capital that favour two-parent family respondents.

Human Capital

One measure of human capital examined was the father's occupation when the respondent was 15-years-old. Compared to respondents living in single-parent families, 5.3% more respondents living in two-parent families grew up with a father who had a managerial (higher socio-economic status) occupation. This suggests that slightly more of the sample presently living in a two-parent family structure grew up in a family with a relatively higher socio-economic status than respondents who lived with single parents. Future research needs to directly examine the influence of capital during prior life stages to better understand how varying childhood and adolescent contexts work to influence individuals' well-being as adults.

Also shown in Table 2 is the gender difference between respondents in single- and two-parent family structures. Not surprisingly, nearly half of the respondents in two-parent homes were female (50.9%), while the majority of respondents from single-parent families were female (68.8%). This means, however, that more than 30% of respondents living in single-parent families were male, which is higher than western figures. Although beyond the boundaries of this paper, future research needs examine male- vs. female-headed single-parent family structures because capital disparities are apt to occur between these two family types.


The findings revealed that significant differences in social, financial, and human capital exist between respondents who live in single- and two-parent families in Japan, with two-parent families faring better than their counterparts. These differences appear similar to those that have been found in the western literature, though the findings presented here have revealed several questions that have been discussed throughout the paper. The disparities in social capital, although similar to those articulated in the western literature, negate previous assertions that Japanese youths living in single-parent families may experience richer social capital than youths in two-parent families (Bassani, 2007a). It is important to realize, however, that the comparisons of social capital made in this paper are limited to particular measures of social capital, and that exactly the same measures used in previous studies could not be captured due to differences in data sets. In addition, it is important to point out that this paper only has examined adult measures of social capital. I was not able to examine youth-specific social capital, nor could I examine social capital in the various mezzo groups, such as the school, work place, community, and so forth, that youths and their families belong to. The results I have reported depict clear differences in capital that favour two-parent families. Differences nevertheless might exist in the quantity and strength of ties that adults in these two family structures have with various mezzo groups. Future research will need to examine the bridging of primary and secondary groups as they pertain to single- and two-parent family structures.

This study has solely focused on testing differences in social (and human and financial) capital between adults living in single- and two-parent families. Even though significant differences have been found, it is necessary to now test whether these differences account for disparities in well-being among parents and children in these family structures. Future research will need to examine these relationships.

In addition, it is important that scholars examine whether disparities in social capital exists across a variety of different types of single-parent families, such as male- vs. female headed and never married vs. divorced vs. widowed. It is likely that differences in social capital, not to mention financial and human capital, exist between these family structures, which may in part help us better understand disparities in the well-being that exist among Japanese families and their members.

Apart from the substantive issues regarding capital in single- and two-parent families in Japan, I have cited an important theoretical limitation of social capital theory. Certainly, all theories have specific limitations; however, social capital theory is uni-temporal; it does not currently acknowledge the importance of life stages and the possibility that social capital developed in one life stage (or lack thereof) will influence well-being in subsequent life stages. Among those who study social capital, this is yet another area of the theory that needs to be recognized and developed.


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This research was supported by a Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Fellowship. The data used in this research was kindly supplied by the Information Centre for Social Science Research on Japan in the Institute of Social Science at the University of Tokyo. I would like to thank Etsuko Ohara for her excellent work in translating these data files.

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About the author

Cherylynn Bassani is a Post Doctoral Fellow in the Centre for Community Child Health Research at the University of British Columbia. Her research focuses on social capital and its influence on the well-being of children, with a special emphasis on Japan, U.S.-Canada differences and immigrants in Canada. In addition, Dr. Bassani teaches in the Sociology Department at the University College of the Fraser Valley.

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Copyright: Cherylynn Bassani
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