Family survey: Spousal power relationships

Jun. 11, 2018
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Wives get stronger, husbands weaker

Overall say in the family: “Husband” 72.4% in 1988->38.7% in 2018, “Wife” 10.1% in 1988->30.3% in 2018

Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living has conducted its Family Survey of couples in households where the husband is a salaried employee every ten years since 1988 (1988, 1998, 2008, 2018).

In the last 30 years, the environment facing families and married couples in Japan has changed significantly as a result of various phenomena, including the declining birthrate and aging population, women marrying and giving birth later in life, and dual-income households.

How has this changed perceptions about families and spouses and who does the housework and child care? Entitled Spousal Power Relationships, this report is the first in a series focusing on key survey findings and shines a spotlight on changes to the power balance in the home and perceptions of the ideal couple image.

The survey is part of Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living’s The Family: Thirty Years of Change study. These and other research findings will be presented at events and in reports as Summer Seminar 2018 The Family: Thirty Years of Change.

Key points of The Family: Thirty Years of Change

Overall say in the family
Husbands lowest, wives highest ever scores; closest scores ever

  • In who has the overall say in the family, “Husband” recorded its lowest ever score (72.4% in 1988->38.7% in 2018).
  • “Wife” recorded its highest ever score (10.1% in 1988->30.3% in 2018), bringing the two scores the closest they’ve ever been in 30 years.
  • By age group, “Wife” topped “Husband” for the first time in couples where the wife is in her 30s or under.

Say in family matters
Say in work, number of kids, living with parents shifts sharply to wives

  • Scores for “Wife” having the final say in family matters such as whether the wife works, whether they live with their parents, and children’s names are the highest they’ve been in 30 years.
  • Scores for the same items for “Husband” have been declining for 30 years and reached their lowest point ever.

Ideal couple image and reality
“Married to best friend” tops in ideal and reality. “Husband rules the roost” becoming endangered?

  • In ideal couple image, “Married to best friend” scored highest among husbands and wives (64.9% for husbands, 79.5% for wives).
  • In reality, too, “Married to best friend” scored highest (53.8% for husbands, 57.3% for wives).
  • “Husband rules the roost” recorded its lowest score in 30 years in ideal and reality (Ideal for husband: 50.2% in 1988->17.8% in 2018).

Spousal dependence (2018 survey only)
“Couldn’t live without my spouse” higher for husbands than wives

  • When we asked husbands and wives whether they felt they “Couldn’t live without my spouse,” the “Yes” score for husbands (67.1%) topped that for wives (59.5%).
  • By age group, “Yes” scores were high for both husbands and wives aged in their 30s or under.

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