Marital Happiness and Discord: Discourses in Japanese Women’s Magazines
January 2009 - November 2013
Since the beginning of the 1970s, Japanese marry less and later in life. Even though many studies suggest that in the majority of cases these changes are initiated by women, female-oriented media has remained understudied. Yet women’s magazines as part of mass media are an important element of society; they function both as mirror and motor of society, and are an agent of socialization. Therefore a longitudinal analysis of women’s magazines is conducted, targeting different age groups. Using a qualitative and quantitative content analysis, particular focus lies on the shifting discourses on motivations for marriage, and on the question of what constitutes marital happiness and discord. The data suggests that the discourses – for some generations of readers – point to a greater heterogeneity of marital experiences than had been assumed so far. These discourses can be seen as a contributing factor to the large-scale transformations of family and family lives that Japan underwent in the last few decades. By particularly focusing on discourses of happiness and unhappiness regarding marriages in Japan, this study provides an additional angle on Japanese marriages and their changes in contemporary Japan.