electronic journal of contemporary japanese studies

Article 1 in 2003
First published in ejcjs on 8 May 2003

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Social Capital Theory in the Context of Japanese Children


Cherylynn Bassani

PhD Candidate
University of Calgary

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This paper is a theoretical discussion of popular American based theories of social capital in the context of Japanese children. Over the last two decades the use of social capital theory within Western family studies has flourished, though scholars have recognized the theory's mono-cultural setting as a fundamental limitation (Fine, 2001; Lin, 2001). The theoretical arguments made in this paper seek not only to add to the development of the theory itself by examining social capital theory in a non-Western context, but also aim to invigorate Japanese family studies by incorporating a new theoretical model into the literature that can possibly help to explain and understand changes in children's well-being.


When applied to children, social capital theory (SCT) becomes a powerful framework that can be used to understand how children and the social networks that they are a part of, such as the family, school, and community, interact to define a child's well-being. Social capital theory, though still under considerable formation, enables theorists to bring a 'social' meaning to the child's world, hence facilitating the contextual understanding of the child. The application of SCT in the Japanese context is of vital significance, for major social changes have been occurring within the Japanese family over the last couple of decades. Problems plaguing children have been of central importance to academic and governmental researchers alike. Namely, ijime (bullying) and refusal to attend school, often in response to ijime, have become key concerns. In addition, research on Japanese academic values and achievement has been mapped over the last two decades among national and international scholars and governments. At present, SCT is not used within Japanese family studies − though it truly has much to add to the understanding of children and the development of the field in general.

In this theory, social capital is used as a predefining indicator of well-being, thus is an important topic of study if we wish to be proactive in the lives of our children and future generations. In the past, family theories have held an overbearing reliance on economic and macro forces in their understanding of children's well-being. Generally, social capital theory takes a holistic approach by examining the values and social interactions within networks, in addition to the traditional economic indicators that have been used to theorize children's well-being in the past.

Within family studies, SCT has remained within North American and European academic confines. Concerns have been notably voiced as to the Western exclusivity of the theory (Fine, 2001; Lin, 2001). Challenges have been made by numerous scholars to push the theory into non-Western contexts, though within family studies Asia has not yet been explored. As such, this paper adds to the development of the field in a variety of ways.

Part I: An Overview of Social Capital Theory

What is Social Capital Theory?

Within family scholarship, social capital is a resource that aids or deters the present and future well-being of the child. Coleman (1988), the forefather of SCT in family studies, defines social capital as:

... a particular kind of resource available to an actor, comprising a variety of entities which contains two elements: they all consist of some aspect of social structures, and they facilitate certain actions of actors ... within the structure.

(Coleman, 1988: 98)

A fundamental relationship between the child and his or her social network(s) is held, therefore. For it is through the interplay of the individual and the group, that social capital can be created and actualized, thereby potentially increasing one's well-being. It should be noted, that well-being can be defined by any of a number of indicators. In the literature, academic achievement is typically used to measure well-being, though more recently children's behaviours and life aspirations have been increasingly addressed.

In his later work, Coleman more specifically defines social capital in terms of children by stating:

What I mean by social capital in the raising of children are the norms, the social networks, and the relationships between adults and children that are of value for the child's growing up. Social capital exists within the family, but also outside the family.

(Coleman, 1990: 334)

Here, Coleman makes a couple of important statements. First, he clearly distinguishes norms or values within the social network as having a fundamental impact on the development of social capital. He then emphasizes vital relationships, through which social capital is built, stating that these relations exist not only between children and family members, but with adults outside the family as well. An important relationship that Coleman did not discuss is that between peers and siblings, both of which have impacts on the child's well-being.

These key points that Coleman illustrates are what distinguishes SCT from other family theories. Values, although a fundamental component of social reality, have often been disregarded by theorists in the social sciences due to the positivistic paradigm that controlled theory and research up until recently. It has only been over the last few decades that the re-incorporation of values into family research has been promoted. Values are highly context laden, both within and across any social group, thus theorization of social life must consider this imperative contextual concept. As a result, the values that underlie societal and family groups will invariably be unique to each culture. This contextual cornerstone, which promotes an ecological perspective of the individual, is an undisputable advantage of social capital theory.

It is important to recognize at the outset of our discussion that social capital is a latent concept. It is intangible, though fundamental to the understanding and mapping of social reality, children's well-being in this case. Lin (2001) provides an invaluable discussion on social capital and nicely maps its relationship to well-being.

Figure 1: Source: Lin (2001): 246

It is beyond the purpose of this paper to discuss Lin's model in any depth, though permit me to expand on some key areas that will facilitate the readers' understanding of social capital. Lin provides a good summary of the formation and utilization of social capital. Within society an uneven distribution of social capital develops through the combination of individual (one's position in society) and group (shared assets that are accessed via participation in social networks) capital. This formula accounts for the disparity of social capital between individuals, for social capital is uniquely constructed based on the specific circumstances. Inequality, a fundamental component of the theory, is important to point out here, for any social theory that wishes to understand and explain people's well-being must take such pertinent information into account.

In this model, children and their families are seen as adapting to their unique life circumstances; some families continually persevere to further the child's social capital while others are not so tenacious in their efforts. Reacting to their circumstances, children and their families may construct or destruct social capital. Social capital theory does not make the naEve assumption that families with more access to social capital will actualize this invaluable commodity. For example, high education levels among parents, especially mothers, have been shown to positively impact the child's well-being (ie. academic achievement and behaviour). Higher education is on average associated with higher incomes, and families with higher incomes typically live in up-scale neighbourhoods that may be rich in community development. If a child in these life circumstances is living in a home that has "structural or functional deficiencies" (Coleman, 1988), social capital that is in a potential state (i.e. education, income, neighbourhood) will have little bearing on the child's development, and thus well-being, because the social capital has not been mobilized. Mobilization is hence rudimentary to the construction of the child's social capital. It is only after mobilization, that returns, or social capital itself is developed, thereby leading to instrumental (material) and expressive (relational) measures of well-being.

Lin makes a significant contribution to the literature with his sensible discussion of social capital. Perhaps because it is difficult to theorize and thus measure, theorists in the field typically do not discuss the concept of mobilization, even though it is a fundamental precursor to social capital. A major strength of SCT is thus its ability to map complex social relationships that are more representative of reality than past family theories that tend to dummy-down and often neglect the importance of intervening social forces which impact the child's well-being.

How the Theory Works: Basic Premises

The basic premises of SCT fluidly permeate cross-culturally. The foundations of the theory are not culturally bound, thus this section is not conducive to change when applied to the Japanese case. What will change however, when applied to the Japanese case is the individual importance of concepts in the heuristic model. These transformations will be discussed in a Part II. The purpose of the present section is to familiarize the reader with the theory's major premises and to present theoretical extensions to other scholar's work.

The Heuristic Model

In the North American and European literature, a number of scholars in the social sciences work with SCT, consequently a variety of forms of the theory exist. Currently, the literature places social capital within a framework with two other distinct concepts; economic and cultural capital. Figure 1 represents the traditional conceptualization of the theory. Although obviously inter-related, social, cultural and economic capitals are seen as three separate components that determine an individual's well-being.

Figure 2. Traditional Theoretical Relationship Between Social, Cultural, and Economic Capital

As a heuristic model, I contend that this does not represent the pattern of well-being of an individual, but the development of the concept of 'capital' in the social sciences over the last two centuries. In the late 1800s Marx and his contemporaries are seen developing the concept of economic capital within the social sciences. Through to the 1960s researchers used economic capital theory to illustrate the well-being of societies, families, as well as the individual. When Bourdieu presented the concept of cultural capital in the 1980s, he did so in an era of modernistic backlash. The 'cultural' had been a long omitted, though fundamental concept in understanding the social world. This era saw the rapid procurement of 'corrected knowledge' about families around the world, which placed staunch emphasis on rejecting the linear Western developmental model that had previously triumphed (Goody, 1990).

Over the next twenty years, further disenchantment within family studies and social sciences in general grew, producing post-modern dialectics within the scholarship. It is here that we see the development of social capital theory, adding the needed contextual emphasis to the study of Childhood and Family Sociology. Instead of a new theory of social capital developing, an amalgamated theory developed. This ideology can not accurately model reality, for as I will show, numerous components of the family and the individual's life are left unknown in the traditional theory. In addition, because social capital is in fact a latent concept, it necessarily draws from a variety of attributes that together form the child's life circumstances. I agree with Fine, in his argument that the economic and social are part of the same entity; "capital is an economic category and, in reality is itself social" (Fine, 2001: 15). Fine maintains that the social sciences have created an oxymoron in its naming 'social capital', for all capital is social in essence.

Along the lines of Fine's argument, I believe social capital to be a latent concept that is derived from six main attributes that family scholars typically recognize. As shown in Figure 3, social capital is uniquely formed based on the child's physical, human, cultural, and material capital, shared values, and social interaction between the child and the networks that he or she belongs to. Because Coleman (1988, 1990) extenuates the importance of family members and closed social networks I see physical capital as representing the quantity of relationships that are held within a social network, as in figure 3 below. In this theory, an intact nuclear family for example, would have maximized physical capital with full closure, for both parents are present in the family. Although Coleman refers to this form of capital and its structural cohesiveness, theorists of social capital have omitted the concept.

Figure 3. The Latent Concept of Social Capital

The next component of social capital is human capital, which I suggest can be broken into two categories: attributed and acquired. Human capital that is attributed to the individual is capital that an individual is born into. This includes, but is not limited to, socio-economic status, neighbourhoods, and biological features of the individual. Acquired human capital on the other hand can be further broken into two types: formal and informal. Formal human capital is often theorized in terms of educational attainment of the individual. Most family studies address this form of capital, though less frequently discussed is informal capital, which is acquired via lived experiences such as on the job training, travelling, and prior work, community, and personal relationships. This is an important form of social capital that has not been extensively theoretically examined in the general literature to this point.

Cultural capital, the third indicator of social capital is taken from Bourdieu's work, and is defined as knowledge of the dominant culture, in the realm of the arts, fashion, language, and etiquette. As discussed in the previous sub-section, cultural capital has been theoretically presented over the last two decades, though it has only recently been carried into family scholarship. The fourth form of capital that composes social capital is the material. This represents any homemade or store bought material object that aids in the individual's development. For the child, this could include flash cards, puzzles, books, computers and the like. Over the last decade, the concept of material capital has come into prominence within scholarship, as researchers have theorized about the quality of neighbourhoods and schools.

The role of values is also pertinent, for shared values within a network, such as the family, enhance the development and retention of social capital. This important contribution made by Coleman (1988) is seen as the core of any social network because it allows for individuals to be in intimately linked due to feelings of trust and obligation. It is always important to remember that values differ not only across groups in a society, but also between societies. As will be later discussed, we see that societal values play a crucial role in determining whether individuals opt to attain a multitude of weak group ties or limit themselves to a smaller number of strong group ties.

Social interaction, the last predictor of social capital is defined as the interaction between individuals in a social network. This factor has been increasingly theorized and researched over the past decade, though not necessarily within the premise of social capital theory. Typically, scholars use this form of capital to capture the latent concept of social capital.

I assert however, that taken together, these six indicators form the latent concept, social capital, that is available to the child in each of the social networks in which they belong. Each component of social capital is highly interwoven, and as such they can not be realistically pulled apart.

Where does Social Capital Come From?

Within a child's social network he or she may attain social capital directly or indirectly via an adult or his or her peers. The younger the child, the more likely that he or she will depend on indirect forms of social capital which are brought into the child's social networks by adults, for children do not have the social or economic resources that are essential for the creation of social networks. As children enter into adolescence, they are exposed to more social networks due to their own social exploration of their community and peers. This expansion is also influenced by their ability to legally work, and as a result increases their social and economic resources that may in turn influence the creation of social capital. Peers play a fundamental role in accessing forms of social capital, for children learn and are socialized by peers in addition to the adults in the networks to which they belong.

Adults who are intimately tied to the child, such as parents, family members, and teachers, also use their social capital to help encourage the development of the child. As previously stated, social capital can indirectly be passed through to the child via these adults.

A difference must be made between who uses social capital and who holds it. A debate in the literature exists in regards to the formation of social capital; Some theorists argue that social capital is held within the group while others concur that it can also be held by the individual as well (Lin, 2001; Putnam, 2000). Most theorists would agree, as Lin (2001) argues, that social capital is held at both the individual and group level. Although each person's social capital is unique, we naturally live in a social world, thus ultimately all reality exists at the group level (Szreter, 2000). Similar to language or culture, social capital can not be formed independently by the individual, though depending on one's ontological stance, it can be held, or embedded, within the group, individual, or by both. It is my premise that all forms of social capital can be developed within a group, however the formation of human, material, and cultural capital are all quite unique to the individual. As Lin's diagram (figure 1 above) illustrates, not all forms of social capital are shared equally in the group, thus social capital is a unique feature which varies between individuals, regardless of whether they are in the same social network. In this way, the individual brings distinct forms of social capital into the group, which may or may not necessarily be shared with or by others. Orr (1999) in her discussion of 'black social capital', for example, shows the difficulty in transferring intra-group into inter-group social capital. She maintains that subgroups in society, such as African-Americans, have conflicting forms of social capital that do not equate with the forms of social capital found in the dominant American society. As a result, individuals who come from marginalized subgroups of society will have a more difficult time transferring and attaining social capital in dominant society. Recent scholarship discusses group variations of social capital in society, which represents an important breakthrough, for earlier accounts of SCT did not take social stratification into consideration, though it is an essential determinant of social capital (Astone et al, 1999; Dyk & Wilson, 1999; Hagan et al, 1996; Sanders & Nee, 1996; Stanton-Salazar, 1997).

Where Do Children Find Social Capital?

Figure 4. Micro-Mezzo-Macro Networks that Impact the Child

Figure 4 models the three basic levels of social networks which the child may develop in: the micro, mezzo, and macro. Each of these networks can be studied in and of themselves, though they are intricately intertwined and interdependent on one another. Irrespective of the country or culture that the child is born into, these three basic levels of theorization always exist. The child and his or her family comprise the micro level network; the family can also be viewed as one of the five mezzo networks that influence the child's well-being, as it interacts with other families in its mezzo level network, which consists of the community, the school, parental work, and leisure networks. Holding together the mezzo sphere are the macro networks, which include: government, tradition, and media. These three levels of social networks are perpetually flowing inward in a cyclical motion, influencing, reproducing, and minimally transforming the micro, mezzo, and macro networks on a continual basis. Due to space limitations, the focus of social capital in this paper will be between restricted to the micro and mezzo levels of theorization.

The Closed Network

A rudimentary premise of social capital is the concept of closure, which is based on the idea that "actors and actions are to be viewed as interdependent rather than dependent" entities (Schuller et al, 2000: 19). In this way, groups-such as the family or school are thought to function best when individual adults and children operate in cohesive ways that will facilitate the acquisition and retention of social capital within that group.

In Coleman's (1988) study of social capital, he discusses closure as being the most important attribute that affects all forms of a child's social capital. He argues, that in order to attain the maximum benefit from the family, or any group, it is important to form closure. Social networks vary on a heuristic scale from open to closed, both of which play a fundamental role in the development of social capital. Figure 5 displays social capital and the open network. The angle represents the social network, and the arrows signify the movement of social capital. Heuristically, when the angle is slightly or completely closed to make a triangle, the social network is seen to have closure. In such a case, optimum social capital is retained within the social network; increasing the density of social capital. Coleman (1988) argues that the transmission of social capital is maximized in families that have a high degree of closure. If social capital is not optimized due to a limited degree of closure, or because of limited social capital within the network itself, the social capital is weak.

Figure 5. The Open Network

Figure 5 illustrates a network that has no closure. Because the angle is not enclosed, potential social capital is able to escape from the group and individual, unutilized. In such a case, a child may be in a family or other group, such as a school or community, which is structurally or functionally deficient. Related to Lin's model in Figure 1, such an individual is unable to mobilize social capital because its access is being hindered.

As previously discussed, social capital has six components: physical, human, material and cultural capital in addition to values and social interaction, all of which interdependently form social capital. Figure 6 shows a simplistic illustration of social capital in a closed network.

Figure 6. Forms of Social Capital in the Closed Network

Note the angles are now closed, so that social capital can be retained within the network. When combing all forms of capital, the individual's social capital can be assessed. Figure 7 depicts this relationship.

Looking back at Figure 4, the middle star represents the five closed angles that are presented in Figure 6, illustrating optimum closure within the family. This middle star represents the child and it is more clearly defined in Figure 7 below.

Figure 7. Closure in the Family Network

Values, the sixth component, overlay this network, influencing each of the other five components. The pentagon surrounding the star signifies full family closure in each of the six areas of social capital. In this ideal situation, social capital is accessible and mobilized and it is in this type of group that social capital will have its highest returns.

Recall that the child is held at the centre of this model. These six indicators influence the social capital and hence well-being of the child cross-culturally, though not necessarily at standard rates. Within any given culture, the number and type of social networks which influence the child will vary from child to child. Cross culturally, the definition of these indicators will necessarily change. Cultural capital for example is different in Canada than in Japan, as forms of etiquette vary greatly between these two countries. Take noodle slurping for example; in Japan it is typical and considered good manners to slurp one's noodles while eating. Etiquette in Canada however frowns on such behaviour, and it would be viewed as quite rude to make such noises in a restaurant or in the home. It is important then to understand the Japanese culture so that definitions of each of these six indicators can be correctly theorized and thus operationalized. Let me not forget to mention that this is also true for ideas of 'well-being', for what may be considered a high level of well-being in Canada may not necessarily be considered such in Japan. This conceptual difference is illustrated in studies that look at academic achievement of students in America and Japan (Fuligni & Stevenson, 1995; Fuller et al, 1986; Stevenson et al, 1993). While American parents tend to be happy with their children's 'average' academic achievement, Japanese parents expect much higher academic performance from their children. As a result, the concept of the 'average' student varies cross-culturally. More recently, this cultural difference has been seen in the Japanese media and the Ministry of Education, Sports and Technology (MEXT). Although Japanese students have consistently ranked at the top in terms of mathematics scores in the developed world, national math scores have nevertheless slightly decreased over the last decade. This has caused much debate and concern among the Japanese Ministry and the public, even though their scores are considerably higher than their international peers (OECD, 2000).

Ideally, children who are centred in a closed network, as in Figure 7, will have the greatest closure and density, thus the greatest returns from social capital. In other words, these children are more likely to have higher achievement: get higher grades, have lower incidences of behaviour problems, and so forth. When the family is enclosed physically with the presence of both parents and children, and when the mother and father have shared norms, social capital is able to grow. Though Coleman (1988) did not expand greatly on the role of shared norms and values between the parents, it was clearly an important factor in his 'closed' family model. In this model he argues that the mother and father are productively relating and communicating with one another because they share common norms. This is fundamental for the maintenance of a closed family network, for if two parents do not share similar values, their parenting strategies and relationship with one another will be conflicting; potentially creating disunity and family discord. Although this argument of intact families has come under harsh criticism, recent studies have embraced the notion that children in intact nuclear families fair better than those children in other family types (Jeynes, 2002; Parcel and Dufur, 2001).

This hypothesis functions cross-culturally, for one culture is not used as a benchmark for the other. Rather, shared values, regardless of their contextual meaning, are the key criterion of closure. In the closed family network, both parents are aware of their family's and children's situation, thus are able to interact and react to situations better than those families that do not have closure.

The closed system is clearly an ideal type. Coleman (1988) discusses two main 'deficiencies' that will hinder social capital in the family network. Other authors, such as Astone et al (1999), mirror Coleman's dichotomy, emphasizing the importance of these network deficiencies. The first is what Coleman terms 'structural deficiency.' This represents the physical absence of family members in the household (physical capital), as seen in the case of single parent families. Similarly, the absence of grandparents and other family members may also diminish potential family capital (Bengtson, 2001). In Japan, where the extended family acts as a key social and economic support, this form of deficiency is likely to be exceedingly prevalent in hindering the child's well-being.

Structural deficiencies can be traced across all five of the six forms of social capital. Deficits in human capital may be seen in the absence of formal education or work experiences of the parent; deficiencies in cultural capital might mean that children have not been exposed to the culture norms of the dominant society or within sub-groups of society that they are a part of; a shortage of material capital may equate with the child's lack of contact with material learning devices; and lastly value deficiencies will be felt in the child's social network if the parents do not hold the same values as wider society or with each other.

'Functional deficiencies' are the second detraction of social capital. This type of deficiency accounts for the absence of strong relationships within the network, even when the family is structurally intact. Coleman gives the example of mothers and fathers who reside in the same household together, though their family communication is limited. Functional deficiencies in social interaction can occur between any individuals within a network. In addition, these deficiencies can manifest in any of the six forms of social capital, as the form of capital may be present, though not utilized to its potential. An example of this might be a family who owns a computer. When the computer was first purchased it was continually being used, though after a few months of ownership, the computer is now left relatively unused. This is an important point to recognize and stress, for just because a dense closed network may exist, this does not mean that its development potential will be actualized. Again, this emphasizes the contribution that Lin (2001) has made in the field in discussing the mobilization of social capital.

Because the definition of the six indicators of social capital vary cross-culturally, so too will the meanings of structural and functional deficiency. The next section will address this issue in the case of the family relations and their impact on the child's social capital.

Not all authors agree that closed dense networks ultimately benefit the individual. In recent years, theorists have maintained that weak ties, in opposition to strong ties, play a larger role in the development of social capital within the micro-mezzo-macro network (Lin, 2001; Szreter, 2000). Scholars looking at social capital in ethnic communities, especially immigrant groups, suggest that closed, strong social networks, both within the family and community, often choke out non-familial social capital due to the tight-knit density of these groups (Stanton-Salazar, 1997). Stanton-Salazar (1997) argues that familial social capital may work together with factors outside the family barriers, such as structural inequality, to hinder the interaction and thus the development of well-being among minority children.

As Lin explains, "to argue that closure or density is a requirement for social capital is to deny the significance of bridges and weaker ties" (Lin, 2001: 27). Network theorists have written extensively on the positive effects of bridging social networks; namely the increased number of social networks that one is associated with and thus the increased flow of information and influence through these ties which translates to social capital. Weak ties are therefore viewed as opportunities to develop one's social capital, although strong ties also need to be maintained within some networks to act as a grounding board to build off of. It is apparent though, that an individual with all weak ties will be disadvantaged in comparison to those with exceedingly strong ties to one or two social networks, such as the family or ethnic community.

Despite these arguments, I theorize that children benefit the most from an increased number of strong ties both within and outside the family, especially in Confucian based cultures, such as Japan. Children's behaviours and interactions are much different than those of adults. Due to the child's life-stage, the growth of strong meaningful relationships is imperative for their psychological development and overall well-being. Unlike adults who have been socialized in ways to communicate and form relationships, children are still in the process of such socialization. A problem with past theorization is that the development of SCT itself has assumed adults as the centre of analysis. A theory that places children in the centre of analysis must reconsider the assumptions of the theory to accurately reflect and understand the child's experiences. As a result, SCT, as it pertains to children's well-being, must logically theorize that children are most impacted by strong ties; provided that these ties are not so strong that they become unhealthy and detrimental to the child, as is discussed in Stanton-Salazar's (1997) research.

Also, as suggested, Confucian centred cultures such as Japan value strong ties due to their value system which is based on concepts of honour, familial piety, and extreme tight-nit relations that are built on indentured trust. In the Japanese case then, there is no debate as to which type of tie is most beneficial in the formulation of a child's social capital.

Western Theoretical Assumptions

Now that the foundations of SCT have been examined, the ethnocentric approach that scholars have taken becomes apparent. While not purposively seeking to create such bias, this is perhaps more harmful, for Western scholars typically do not consider other cultures when theorizing; choosing to think in their own cultural paradigm. The problem of SCT lies in the fact that the premises of how children's social capital and well-being function are based on Western concepts of family, which do not consider alternative social contexts. Such research has a definite necessity, since it is fundamental to the development of Western family studies, policy matters, and the like.

Cross-cultural family research, especially theoretical development, needs to be expanded. Japanese scholars repeatedly show how norms surrounding the family are dissimilar from that found in the West (Ho, 1994; Kumagai, 1995; Morley, 1999; Ochiai, 1994). While many of the theoretical assumptions of SCT can be transferred to the Japanese case, there are others that must be altered to suit the context of the Japanese culture. The preceding pages have briefly mentioned such changes. This paper concurs that although SCT is not directly translatable, it is transformable. This does not berate the theory in any aspect, but illustrates a fundamental point; that European and North American hypotheses linking concepts of social capital to the child's well-being are necessarily contextual. Social capital theory is highly useful in explaining and aiding in the development of children's well-being. With the dramatic changes that have been taking place in the Japanese family and amongst Japanese children, its incorporation into Japanese studies is of a timely manner. Policy analysts in both academic and government sectors have much to gain by using SCT to facilitate their understanding of increased rates of bullying, elevated high school drop out and absentee rates in addition to the overall changing behavior of Japanese children.

Part II: Differences between Western and Japanese Children's Mezzo Networks in the Formulation of Social Capital

Similar to the Western family, Japanese families do not have closure. Because closure is purely a theoretical concept it is impossible to attain in any culture, though the child's social network in Japan lacks closure on different grounds than in the West. What follows examines this difference by looking at the five mezzo networks that impact on the child's social capital.

Table 1 shows the relationship between the six forms of social capital and the five mezzo networks that affect the child. The table addresses changes in Japanese children's social capital over the last two decades, as suggested by past research.

Table 1: Relationship Between Social Capital and Inside and Outside the Family Networks

The Family

Similar to the West, the family is the densest social network that the Japanese child is a part of. As Table 1 indicates, within this network, children are both directly and indirectly affected by its members.

Past research indicates that physical and cultural capitals, as well as social interaction with the mother are decreasing, (Bassani, 2003; Fujimura-Fanselow, 1993; Iwasawa, 2000; Kumagai, 1995 & 1996; Retherford et al, 1999; Retherford et al, 1996; Tsuya, 1994), thus social capital from these sources are necessarily decreasing as well. According to SCT, structural deficiencies caused by divorce, children born outside of marriage, declines in extended family living, as well as decreased birth rates have all combined to create a decline of physical capital within the home (Kumagai, 1996; Iwasawa, 2000; Ochiai, 1997; Retherford et al, 1999). Reductions in cultural capital available to Japanese children is thought to be attributed to a combination of factors: the infiltration of the Western culture, lack of time that parents have to spend with children at cultural events, and the distance that most families are from extended family members, that might otherwise help to acculturate the children. These declines are thought to be heavily linked to decreases in community activism over the past few generations (Bassani, 2003). As a side note, the lack of community involvement that Japanese adults maintain is quite astonishing. Baer (2001) and Curtis et al (2001), researchers in international community activism, cite Japan as having one of the lowest volunteer rates in the 30 plus countries that he examined.

Due to these time constraints placed on the family, in addition to national migration trends, which leave families with limited family support networks, social interaction also appears to be declining between family members. This is a difficult relationship to hypothesize however, for interaction appears to be increasing in some areas, though declining in others. To begin with, family sizes have been decreasing, therefore the child has fewer siblings to develop relationships with, thus fewer people to access social capital from. In addition, increases in divorce and childbirth out of wedlock have restricted social interaction between the child and the absent parent. These social restrictions have been traditionally enforced, though since The Occupation legal changes surrounding divorce have undoubtedly impacted the parent (ex-spouse)-child relationship due to the creation of 'fault' based divorce laws, which make it easy for the spousal 'victim' to control child-parent interaction with the ex-spouse.

As Table 1 illustrates, within the family it is necessary to examine mothers' and fathers' interaction with their children independently, for different trends have emerged over the last few decades in regards to family roles (Bassani, 2001; Fujimura-Fanselow, 1993; Fuller et al, 1996; Tsuya, 1994). As discussed in previous research, the value of individualism can be seen impacting on mothers and fathers quite differently; an increasing number of women have been liberated by gaining higher educations and entry into career jobs, while men on the other hand have been liberated by gaining what they lacked, closer social relations with their family as opposed to the traditional economic relations that they have been traditionally trapped in (Bassani, 2003; Retherford et al, 1999).

Over the past 20 years, a trend has been occurring where mothers' time spent in personal work and leisure pursuits are competing with time that had been spent with their children (Bassani, 2003; Kumagai, 1995; Smith, 1995). For mothers, interaction with children and thus physical capital has declined due to their personal career development. This is without a doubt strongly linked to the professionalization of the mother-centred roles, such as teaching the child cultural and academic knowledge in addition to increased leisure activity with friends. As a result, the density of social capital contributed by mothers has necessarily decreased in the family.

An entirely different situation is found among Japanese fathers. The infiltration of individualism in society has affected men in much different ways than it has women. Men's liberation has allowed them ultimately to increase the quality and quantity of time spent with their children and wives (Bassani, 2002 & 2003; Fujimura-Fanselow, 1993). Due to changing attitudes towards and responsibilities of fatherhood, shortened work-weeks, and love-based marriages, the father's physical capital in the family has increased, thereby enhancing the interaction with his children and spouse. The father's increased contribution to social capital in the family is challenged however by the mother's decreased contribution; it seems doubtful however that both are changing at equal rates that cancel each other out. In comparison to mothers however, fathers appear to be still spending less time with their children (Bassani, 2003; MEXT, 2003). Over all, it would seem that the increased time spent with fathers is not large enough to compensate for the decrease in time spent with mothers. This is difficult to argue however, for research in this area has not been conducted. Family researchers theorize that families are spending more time together (Kumagai, 1995; Ochiai, 1997) though, qualitative research seems to maintain that it is not the time that is increasing, but the quality of time spent together (Bassani, 2003; Fujimura-Fanselow, 1993). I contend with the latter notion, for parents that I have interviewed in past years uniformly explain that children are actually spending less time with their families on a daily basis due to changes in family patterns, though the time families do spend together, on vacations or group outings, are of a richer quality and quantity in comparison to 20 plus years ago.

Human, along with material capital on the other hand are thought to have been increasing in the family. Changing human capital can be attributed to increased educational attainment levels of women and life experiences of both sexes (Iwasawa, 2000; Morely, 1999; Ochiai, 1997; Retherford et al, 1999). As a result of these experiences, children are exposed to richer forms of social capital in the home. Material capital appears to have dramatically increased over the last two decades. The breadth of learning supplies now available to the family is extraordinary. As illustrated in the Japanese report on the Programme for International Student Assessment by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, material capital within Japanese family households is quite high (OECD, 2000.) Parents have access to various educational devices sent home from school and juku. In addition, parents can purchase supplies; ranging from study books, flash cards, and text books to personal computers. The rise of juku itself signifies important leaps in the development of social capital, especially formal human capital (Bassani, 1998).

Values that parents hold also appear to be changing, as are shown in the nation's family related demographics. Throughout society, behaviours of youth have radically changed over the last two decades (MEXT, 2003; Shields, 1995; Smith et al, 1999). These behaviours are believed to be indicators of value shifts that are occurring within society. Traditional family values that were incorporated by the ie system (stem family) in the 1800s include: supremacy of father in the family and males in society, women's role at home to care for and educate her children, and marriage as an institute of procreation, thereby carrying on the male's family name and well-being of the ancestral lineage.

In contrast, the modern family, or "the Japanese-style modern family" as Ochiai (1997: 82) defines it, is thought to hold a plethora of new values, which have been imported from outside the society and combined with traditional ie values.

I do not purport that a shift in values equates with the breakdown or demise of social capital in the family. What matters according to Coleman (1988) at the family level, is that values are shared by spouses. Differing values between spouses will however create dissention within the family network, causing social capital to be stunted. This could potentially be very damaging for the child, for parental interaction would be functionally frayed. This type of network would eventually collapse, perhaps leading to divorce and therefore structural deficiencies in physical capital. If families remain intact, though continue in their dysfunctional behaviour, the social capital built in the family would be severely limited, leading to possible psychological damage of all family members concerned.

Parental values that change together enforce solidarity within the family and thus represent a structurally and functionally strong family network. The Japanese component of the World Values Survey, a longitudinal examination of societal values over 15 years, shows that changes in family related values appear to have consistently changed across men and women; illustrating familial value changes in Japan, though at a fairly constant rate between the sexes (Bassani, 2001). As a result, these value changes do not necessarily harm the social capital built in the family unit, because men's and women's values are seen as changing together in the same direction, thus promoting the development of social capital in the family.

To summarize, Japanese children should benefit from the present family form; the "modern Japanese family" social network is structurally breaking down, or transforming rather, because mothers' time is increasingly career and leisure orientated. In addition, a lack of extended family interaction and community participation together limit the social capital formed in the family as well as the community.

The School

In Japan, the role that school plays in the proliferation of the child's social capital is quite different from that found in the West. Though the education system plays a fundamental role in the socialization of norms and the development of social capital in all societies, in Japan Confucian values have traditionally given great authority to the educational system and more specifically to the teacher (Ho, 1994). As a result, the school tremendously aids the child's accessibility and mobilization of social capital, perhaps acting as a buffer against the increasing 'openness' of the family and non-family networks that the child is a part of (MESSC, 2000a; Sheilds, 1995). For this reason, the role of the school in Japan is extremely different than that found in Western countries. As a result, SCT in the family context must focus more attention on school than has been traditionally given in the Western literature. This is a fundamental difference in the application of the theory cross-culturally, that must be addressed.

A tremendous amount of camaraderie and community is developed at each school, which is extremely hierarchical; the school is unified by class, grade and then school body itself against other schools (Iwama, 1995; Shields, 1995). The structure differs depending on elementary or middle school, but in either case close bonds are forged between student and homeroom teacher. The bond between homeroom teacher and student is so strong that, if students fall into trouble outside of school, homeroom teachers may be informed prior to the parents (Fukuzawa & LeTendre, 2000; Iwama, 1995; Tobin et al, 1995). Children are able and encouraged to turn to their teacher for advice and support, two key attributes that are intricately enmeshed in the latent concept of social capital.

The Japanese school is truly student centred. Interaction and friendships are encouraged by the school through mandatory participation in extracurricular activities (Iwana, 1995; Sheilds, 1995; Tobin et al, 1995). Administrators understand the importance of building strong friendships for children, so they enact formal and informal programs that foster such relations. In fact, it is common practice in some schools to dissuade strong contacts with students from other schools (Fukuzawa & LeTendre, 2000).

Of all the factors outside the family networks, school has the strongest link to the child. Direct strong links are forged at school through the teacher-student relationship that is specific to Japan, in addition to the development of close peer relations. Researchers claim that the development of strong friendships in elementary and middle school is the most important social network for children (Fukuzawa & LeTendre, 2000; Tobin et al, 1995), for not only do such friendships foster healthy development, but also aid the development of networks that will be needed when 'examination hell' starts in high school.

Teachers and the school itself play a fundamental role in the development of a child's social capital. Suggested in Table 1, all forms of capital available to the child have all increased over the past few decades in the school (Fukuzawa & Le Tendre, 2000; Shields, 1995). In terms of physical capital, schools have been staffed with more teachers and administrative staff per capita over the last fifty years (MESSC, 2000b). Although class sizes are still large by Western standards, they have been dramatically reduced in size, thus giving teachers more time with individual students. Some educational scholars however, argue that large class sizes are a fundamental for groupism, a key value held in Japanese society (Sheilds, 1995; Tobin et al, 1995). With the decline in family sizes, some Japanese scholars assert that decreasing class sizes will negatively affect children by spoiling them with too much attention. Theorists in this area argue that the role of the teacher is not to 'mother' the students, but to act as an authority figure. For some scholars, smaller classes are thought to interfere with the teacher's role because teachers become too emotionally involved with the students and visa versa, hence students are not able to learn and develop to their fullest potential. As a result of this perspective the impact of class size on the student is not entirely clear. I am hesitant to argue either way; on the one side, I do not want to carelessly enforce Western educational standards (the concept of small class sizes) in this theoretical framework, but on the other had, the role of the teacher has been changing, thus it is difficult to argue whether these responses to smaller class sizes are merely a refutation of role changes. Exploration into this area needs to be further conducted before theoretical arguments regarding physical capital and its impact on the child's social capital can be firmly made.

Human capital is also increasing within the school as longer and more intense teacher education training programs have emerged in current years (MEXT, 2003, Shimahara, 1995). In addition, teaching methods have greatly changed, thereby placing the child at the centre opposed to the traditional teacher-centred learning. Gruelling exams, which test the knowledge of potential teachers, ensure that only the most socially and institutionally educated candidates will become certified. Increased education coupled with the expanded scope of knowledge that teachers must attain prior to being hired ensures quality instruction and training, thereby increasing the students' human capital. Although teacher certification is required in Western countries, entrance examinations are not common practice as they are in Japan. The entire process of certification from start to finish appears to be much more arduous than that found in Canada and the United States.

The age and experience of the teacher is theorized as impacting the student's learning and social capital. According to some researchers, older teachers are believed to help students in their academic achievement, and thus academic well-being more so than younger teachers (Sheilds, 1995). Younger teachers are thought to teach in a more functional framework, which 'gives up on students' who are streamed non-academically. Older teachers on the other hand who did not personally experience the competitiveness of 'examination hell' in their own education are seen as encouraging all students to achieve. Known as 'gambaru', it is a rudimentary value which is based on neo-Confucian ethics surrounding education. It is possible that Western styles of teaching that have infiltrated the Japanese curriculum and teacher training have tried to distance themselves from the gambaru ethic in an effort to decrease the stresses of the Japanese high school curriculum.

As Japan has globalized to become a major economic contender in world trade, the amount of cultural and material capital available to students via the school has also increased. Western conceptions of cultural capital permeate the school system, however national, prefectural, and school level policies and programs guarantee that students will learn cultural capital that is native to Japan such as the tea ceremony and traditional music and martial art lessons. These types of programs appear to have increased in the last decade, enforcing the value of Japanese culture first and 'Western culture' second. In Japan the national school system is the formative promoter of cultural capital, much greater than any other network that the child is directly or indirectly associated with. Though space limitations do not allow for a deeper discussion of this topic, it is important to mention the fundamental link that school curriculum has with national efforts to enhance 'social education' (a term that is virtually synonymous with what I have been referring to as cultural capital) as is clearly outlined by MEXT (2003).

With the success of the nation and the rapid advancement of technology, Japan has increased its material capital astronomically. As MESSC (2000b) and MEXT (2003) indicate, compared to only a generation ago, students are greatly facilitated with various forms of material capital. Educational supplies, not only computers and software, but cards and vibrant readers have replaced the old text learning style, which was based completely on rote learning. Such materials help to enhance the child to learn by holding their interest. Let me also point out that material capital is thought to increase social interaction with teachers, students, and administrators because such capital is interactive by nature.

Researchers have addressed this issue, making a valid argument as to the positive and negative effects that teachers can potentially have on students. If teachers have not been adequately trained in one-on-one teaching, or they are mediocre in their teaching abilities, the consequence of increased interactions with students is thought to actually hinder students' achievement and development (Sheilds, 1995; Tobin et al, 1995).

With all of these positive changes that have been happening in schools, new values have likely emerged surrounding the role of the teacher, the state and the responsibility of the parents in the child's formal and informal school education. Again let me reiterate, this paper's aim is to summarize the sources of the child's social capital so that the reader can have a better understanding of the explanatory power of social capital theory. Separate papers that look exclusively at each of these mezzo networks could very well be written, and would in fact add much to the literature. It is obviously beyond the scope of this paper to make such explanations, though I encourage scholars in the field to address these issues.

It is my theoretical claim that value changes have affected the interaction between teacher-student and teacher-family negatively, for authority traditionally held by the teacher, such as family counselling, has been professionalized and as a result the teacher no longer has the intense tie to the child and thus the family. While interaction between these groups is still regarded high by Western standards, teachers appear to be much less involved in their students' lives than what they once were (Bassani, 2003; Fukuzawa & LeTendre, 2000).

Parents on the other hand have received greater autonomy over their children's education, in the form of parent-teacher groups and the alike, though it is reported that parental interaction with the teachers and the school has declined over the last generation (Bassani, 2003; Ida, 1998). As a result, I assert that links between the family and school have dwindled. Teachers and researchers believe this to be attributed to mothers' fulltime entry into the workforce, as parents, especially mothers, feel the pull from work responsibilities and increased leisure pursuits (Bassani, 2003; Kumagai, 1996; MEXT, 2003). Additionally, legal changes that outline parental rights and the limitations of the teacher have undoubtedly impacted these relations. Accordingly, school-family links have likely weakened despite the formal 'power' that parents have attained over their children's education.

Within Western family studies geographic region and family socio-economic status has been shown to dramatically impact the child's potential social capital, for a great variation exists geographically and across socio-economic groups in society. As such, particular schools may or may not have active community links that bridge social capital with the community. According to some Japanese educators, local teachers in less densely populated regions are more likely to be involved in community activities, such as teaching juku or traditional Japanese art lessons. Likewise, it is felt that in smaller communities, parents with a similar socio-economic status as the teacher might have community contact with them at cultural events, thus adding to the school-family-community link. This argument is opposite to what has been found in the United States, as rural and non-urban inhabitation tends to decrease certain forms of well-being, such as academic achievement.

Likewise, socio-economic status is not expected to have a dramatic impact on the child's well-being in Japan. It is well documented that Japan has a low socio-economic disparity, meaning that the difference between those who are at either end of the spectrum is marginal. In contrast, the United States is known for its huge difference between 'the rich and the poor'. Taking this into consideration, socio-economic status is expected to be only a nominal predictor of child's well-being in Japan. Even when children are in poorer homes, the Japanese education system acts as a leveller − thereby positively impacting the child's well-being.

To summarize, the school is the strongest non-familial social network that the child belongs to in Japan. It acts as a buffer against the major changes that are occurring in society at large, which resultantly limits the child's access to social capital. As will be discussed in the next section, the school is more likely to be linked to not only the community but also to parental (mother's) leisure networks than the family, thus adding to the vitality of this network. Although the same mezzo network exists in the West, the Japanese school network appears to be far superior in providing access and mobilization of social capital. Furthermore, it also enhances the social capital available in the family and community networks. Over the last 20 years, the international community has come to recognize the strong educational system in Japan. The American government in particular has funded numerous projects that examine why Japanese children are so diligent and fair better on international tests in comparison to their American counterparts. It is my belief that it is the rich social capital that is available in schools that impacts not only academic performance, but all aspects of the child's life, creating a situation that enables children to flourish.

The Community

Community networks in Japan have much less benefit for a child's social capital in comparison to the family and school. Qualitative research indicates that community activism has decreased dramatically over the last two generations (Bassani, 2001) and quantitative analysis shows a lack of community volunteerism within modern-day Japan (Baer, 2001; Curtis et al, 2001). This is a much different situation than what is found in Western countries. According to Baer (2001), Canada and the United States have three times as many citizens helping out in the community than in Japan. In addition, a limited number of children's community groups are available in Japan. According to MEXT's policy initiatives over the last couple of decades, the primary function of community groups has been to meet the needs of adults, specifically seniors. This trend is likely attributed to the school's incredible student-centred role in society as well as Japan's aging demographic pattern.

Regardless of the reason, lack of community participation can not have a positive effect on a child's social capital, for potential sources of social capital are never realized. Shown in Table 1, we see that most forms of social capital appear to be decreasing at the community level, and though not illustrated, the links between the community and other mezzo networks have likely decreased as well.

Children can form social capital directly through their own community involvement, or indirectly through the involvement of their family, teachers, other adults, or friends. Direct involvement among children within the community appears to be much higher than indirect involvement through adults. Numerous studies illustrate children's intense participation in community based private lessons, such as juku, English language, art classes and the alike (Bassani, 2003; Fukuzama & LeTendre, 2000; Kumagai, 1996). In these groups, children are able to build important contacts that are separate from their parents, thereby increasing their support network. Fukuzama & LeTendre (2000) maintain that these networks, though inferior to the teacher-child relationship in school, are fundamental in the development of friendships that will help the child to emotionally sustain the intense high school years.

Within the family-community network, children gain indirect social capital through family members. Research indicates that these links have severely decreased in Japan over the last twenty years (Bassani, 2003; Fujimura-Fanselow & Kameda, 1993; Kumagai, 1996; Retherford et al, 1999). It appears that involvement in the community is decreasing for both men and women alike. Mothers' increased time in the work force and in leisurely pursuits may be factors that have aided in the formation of this condition. Women have traditionally been cast as the main organizers of community events, thus a decrease in the amount of their flexible time has had obvious impacts on the organization of community events and participation within the community. The father's continued focus on work and leisure has most likely played a role in the decrease of community participation. As a result of this decline, children are being deprived of potential human, physical, and cultural capital in addition to positive interaction with adult and peer community members. In recognizing the fragmented link between family and community, and the negative impact that this has on children, Japanese researchers acknowledge that parents must be linked to the community in meaningful ways (Haiman, 2002).

The school-community network also indirectly affects the development a child's social capital. In recent years such networks have been strongly supported by government policy, which emphasizes the importance of a child's social education within the community (MEXT, 2003). Though not particularly strong, the linkage between child and community via the school is essential to the child's socialization and social capital, for it is through such links that children are exposed to community groups, which then in turn forge stronger support networks which will become crucial in the high school years. In addition, teacher training and community development seminars that are organized by community groups for the benefit of children, potentially indirectly add to the child's human and cultural capital.

As shown, community networks do not actively work in the child's life on a daily basis as do the family and school. If a child is fortunate he will participate in community activities once a week. Demographics show that the likelihood of such community involvement increases as the child gets older (MEXT, 2003). Without community involvement, social capital available to the child is ultimately hampered.

Parental Work

Parental work networks do not directly affect children, though through the parent, children's social capital maybe indirectly influenced. The work-family connection does not typically exist in Japan, for parental work is usually segregated from the family. In feudal times, work and family networks were synonymous, though with the rise of manufacturing under capitalism at the turn of the 20th century, family and work networks separated. More so than in the West, there is a distinct and bold division between the two spheres, thus limiting the interplay that would otherwise connect work and family spheres. The oya/ko system, which translates as the 'parent and child' system, has traditionally been prevalent within the Japanese family (Kumagai, 1996). Due to the structure of the traditional oya/ko found in the ie household, paternal social networks created in the work place tend to block the flow of social capital to children due to the father's preoccupation with his work and thus limited contact with his children (Hamada, 1997).

Work-family literature indicates an apparent transformation in the place that work holds in Japanese society (Bassani, 2003; Fujimura-Fanselow & Kameda, 1993, Hamada, 1997; Iwasawa, 2000; Retherford et al, 1999; Tsuya, 1994). Both men's and women's work experiences appear to be changing, though at different rates. Since The Occupation, government policy and statistics indicate that men have been working fewer hours, while qualitative research reports that men have also increasingly focused more attention on their wives and children (Bassani, 2003; Fujimura-Fanselow & Kameda, 1993; Hamada, 1997). Although men still work more paid hours than their female counterparts, the decline in hours worked per year is significant to the family, children in particular. Women in contrast are experiencing different work trends. Since the rise of the 'modern' family at the turn of the 20th century women have acted as the lumpen proletariat reserve workforce; typically entering the labour market in the service sector until marriage, and then re-entering when their children have finished school. Over the past few decades women have been formally socialized into this reserve army through post secondary education at 'women's universities' or by going abroad for their education to increase their marital marketability. More recently however a growing proportion of women have been steering from this life course into career paths (Fujimura-Fanselow, 1995; Iwasawa, 2000).

As the value of work for both men and women has changed, two major repercussions have been dealt to the family: first, work has become an increasingly competing institution of the family and second, value shifts influenced by Western ideals and the role of work in life-fulfilment have been introduced to the Japanese society. These changes in how parent's view work and its role in society have important repercussions on the individual's life happiness. For mothers, identity through work rather than, or in addition to the family has emerged. If mothers feel a social obligation to work, and feel themselves a failure if they do not have a career, being a stay at home mother will have negative effects on her psychological well-being (Hamada, 1997). This will in turn impact her relationship with family members and her functional ability in the home, all of which may collectively create an environment that is not conducive to the development of social capital in the family. If on the other hand, a mother does not have such notions of work, a career job may have positive affects on the family, for a psychological struggle between family and work will not ensue because the family ethic will override the work ethic.

Research indicates that men also experience these same work-family struggles (Bassani, 2003; Fujimura-Fanselow & Kameda, 1993; Hamada, 1997). As previously discussed, the impact of individualism for men has been quite different than that of women. For men, they have been partially liberated of their economic role in the family. Though men are still the primary economic supporters of families, they have come to see a mutual benefit in the participation of raising their children. As a result, for men, their struggle is to become a shinjinrui father; the new breed of men who refuse to follow traditional roles in the family and work place versus the 'corporation centred' man who has little time for his family.

Women's increased career participation has not unfortunately been equalized by men's increased interaction with their children. As a result of increased time away from the family, mothers who work full-time will not be able to provide as much personal interaction and social capital to her children as those who are full or part time homemakers. Although mothers' work networks, more so than father's, tend to aid in the child's well-being (Buchel & Duncan, 1998), individualistic goals, such as career orientation, may negatively impact children due to the lack of child care that is available for children of career mothers if an alternate meaningful caregiver can not be provided. As a result, children of career mothers may be latchkey kids due to the unpopularity and structural deficiency of day and after school care facilities. This problem is amplified by the migration of families across the country which separates extended families who might otherwise step in to take on the 'caregiver' role. Japanese children with career mothers are also likely to be negatively effected by mother's work because of the intense relationship that traditional mothering fosters with the child. If a mother chooses a career over being a kyōiku-mama, a stay-home study mom, the child will necessarily be at a disadvantage if his peers belong to a kyōiku-mama household.

If mothers are negatively affected by their career or lack of one, social interaction between the mother and child and mother and husband will be hampered, thereby negatively impacting family dynamics. For career mothers, a reduction in time spent with the husband could have negative impacts on the couple's shared values and interests, especially since most couples have limited time together due to the husband's long work hours. Also, a decrease in time spent with children would be harmful to the child's well-being considering the traditional role and closeness of the mother-child relationship. When other family members, such as grandparents or older siblings are not available to give the child productive direction, the child's social capital is thus substantially reduced. juku and private tutors may aid in the development of the child and their social capital, nonetheless these relations can not be seen as a replacement for the mother's time and energy (Tobin et al, 1995). It is also possible that children who have career moms may be ostracized in school due to parental deviation from the traditional role of mother in society.

As previously mentioned, increased working hours of mothers may also be associated with a decline in community participation, which then leads to a decay in the links between the child and community.

I must emphasize that having a career mother does not mean that a child will be destined to low social capital. Career mothers can bring different human and material capital into the family, and in so doing expose the family to progressive norms and values. A fundamental point to ask is whether or not both parents hold these values. If so, social capital will be optimized, though if differing spousal values on work and society exist, this will inevitably create tension within the family network, thereby dissuading the creation and mobilization of social capital. It should be noted, children with part time career mothers are theorized to have more social capital than those with full time career mothers because such children are viewed as having the best of both worlds; indirect as well as direct social capital in the form of increased quality and quantity of mother-child interaction. Part time career moms potentially have more time than their full time counterparts to spend with children or in other mezzo networks that directly or indirectly aid in the development of the child's social capital.

With changes in female work patterns, mother's roles in the family have significantly changed, consequently impacting the child's well-being. Hours worked, type of job held by the mother, and the extent of the 'career-family' struggle all have a fundamental bearing on the development of a child's social capital. Opposite to the West, father's work plays a much smaller role in the formation of the child's social capital because fathers have traditionally worked such long hours, hence the development of social capital has fallen mostly on the mother's shoulders. With increasing hours spent outside of the home, children are becoming more isolated from their mothers, though relations remain strong due to the traditional mother-child bond that exists in Japanese society.

The fundamental point that I address with SCT is that if changes occur with any of the three social realms: the micro, mezzo, or macro there are necessarily implications for the construction of social capital, and hence the well-being of the child. We can not expect a child's social capital to remain constant if the networks to which he or she belongs are changing. If social capital is detracted in one area, then it must be enhanced in other areas in order to maintain heightened or at least stable well-being. A fundamental critique of SCT is its argued Parsonian law of balance. I attest that SCT is not flawed in Parsonian functionalism, though I do concur that family relations (and social networks in general) are relatable to an equation where both sides must be the same logistically in order to balance. I do not suggest that this balance is a stable fixture, but rather an on going effort due the constant state of change within the family, and all social networks.


Japanese scholars indicate that the time that both men and women spend in leisure activity has been increasing over the past generation (Bassani, 2003; Ida, 1998; Kumagai, 1996). A recent trend has been for individual parents to join in various clubs, which are separate from their family. Like parental work networks, parental leisure networks tend not to include children and therefore create social networks that are separate from the family and thus not linked. As with the case of parental work, children are only indirectly affected via the parent's well-being. These networks have the ability to enhance the psychological well-being of a parent, via the formation of close bonds, which may facilitate parenting and marital strategies, thereby positively affecting social interaction between family members and as a result familial social capital.

Work related leisure activities deserve some mention, for this consumes a large part of leisure time for men. Unlike Western companies, many Japanese firms have organized leisure trips for their employees. Such activities vary from daily morning exercises and weekend golf games to week long vacations that are based on kushin, or hard work of employees, which is believed to enhance the company's sales in a given term. Work related leisure activities typically exclude family members, facilitating group identity and commitment to the company rather than the family. Although these outings do not include the family, such leisure activities can enhance indirect familial capital by facilitating an increase in the father's psychological well-being.

In the Japanese case, leisure, like work, acts as a direct deterrent in the production of social capital that is available to the child since time and energy is being focused on outside the family social networks that may have weak if not nonexistent links to the child. Leisure networks in Japan should be seen as having only minuscule positive effects on familial social capital, though more likely act as a deterrent by isolating social interaction and thus social capital from the child. This is opposite to SCT's premise in the West, where parents typically include their child in their leisure activities. As indicated in Table 1 − even though parental leisure networks have increased for women and appear to have stayed constant for men, they do not directly provide access to nor mobilization of social capital for children. Only if parents allow their children to maintain social interaction with these networks will they be able to reap the benefits of the physical, human, and cultural capital of the parent's friends.

Concluding Remarks

Social capital theory examines how complex relationships in children's lives act to influence their individual well-being. Each child holds a unique blend of determinants that produces his or her social capital. By using this theory we are forced to take into account the context in which the child lives and how this context is related to their well-being. Without considering the child's life circumstances, we are essentially unable to correctly theorize and thus understand children's present and future well-being in any form of the meaning.

Social capital is a complex issue. The discussion provided in this paper often oversimplifies the formation of social capital, though it was not the purpose to minutely elaborate on the construction and destruction of social capital. Rather, the preceding pages aimed to introduce the reader to SCT and its utility in Japanese family studies − specifically its value in understanding the well-being of children in a non-Western setting. As the preceding pages have shown, SCT can be used in the Japanese context, though it must be thoughtfully considered. Through discussing the role that family, school, community, parental work, and parental leisure play in the development of a child's social capital, we see that the theory does not transfer directly from the Western to a Japanese context. Rather, it may be transformed to suit Japan's culturally specific norms. It is my contention that Japanese family studies, and all family studies in general, can be greatly enhanced with the use of social capital theory.

The changing behaviour of Japanese children and adolescence and the problems associated with these changes, such as ijime and school absenteeism, have increased over the last two decades. While policy makers, school officials, teachers, and parents struggle to understand what is happening, researchers urgently try to find answers as to why these behaviours are occurring and what exactly is affecting the well-being of children and youth. Social capital theory has great explanatory power in understanding such events due to its holistic approach which fuses the child's social networks together. The information gained by using this theory is instrumental in the development of policy at the community, regional, and federal levels. It is my hope that SCT is contagious within the community of Japanese family scholars, and is eventually used to facilitate such policy formation.

I have offered a model of SCT in the Japanese context that I hope will be moulded and reformed in future studies. I do not contend that the model presented here is the perfect construction of SCT, but rather what all theory is, a work in progress. This paper also attempts to highlight the importance of cross-cultural scholarship, for it is only through examining theories and models across cases or cultures that we can fully develop our theoretical approach. Theorizing human behaviour in a mono-cultural setting inadvertently introduces ethnocentrisms into any paradigm. Through cross-cultural analysis we can more easily detect these fallacies; Reflexivity is a scientific trait that must be utilized, for biased theory creates biased ideology.


I would like to thank Dr. Anne H. Gauthier sincerely for her editorial assistance and constant support. In addition I would like to thank Dr. Valerie Haines for her ongoing theoretical conversations and guidance.


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About the author

Cherylynn Bassani worked in Japan between 1995 and 1997, teaching English and conducting research in the area of values and language. Since this time she has changed her research focus to children's well-being, cross-culturally examining Japan, Canada, and the United States.  Currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Calgary, Ms. Bassani teaches Family Sociology and Canadian Society.  She is also the editorial assistant for Canadian Ethnic Studies/Etudes ethniques au canada and a diversity trainer for the Cultural Diversity Institute at the University of Calgary.

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