Seminar Series

Children of divorce and stepfamilies in Japan: Why they are left behind after all these years

Thursday, 7 September 2023 | 9:00-10:00 a.m. (JST)
  • Shinji Nozawa Department of Sociology, Meiji Gakuin University
  • Sawako Shirahase Director of TCJS

Children of divorce and stepfamilies have been gradually gaining academic and social attention in Japan. Two decades of our research on stepfamilies in Japan has produced two contradicting models of stepfamilies as key factors in understanding stepfamily dynamics. The first is the “scrap and build” household type (the substitute family model), and the second is the expanded and interconnected household type (the enduring family model). The former model assumes that once a custodial parent remarries or re-partners, the other biological parent must be replaced by a stepparent. However, in the latter model, the child’s biological parents remain as (custodial) parents irrespective of the parents’ marital status. A series of family law reforms based on the Rights of the Child seem to have socially and culturally normalized the latter model in Western societies. This presentation discusses how and why the former model is still dominant in Japan, affecting many children’s well-being and life course.


Shinji Nozawa is a Professor of Sociology and a Former Vice President at Meiji Gakuin University. In more than two decades, he has been pioneering stepfamily research in Japan, recently focusing more on children’s experiences of parental divorce and remarriage in the Japanese legal and social contexts. His work includes a co-authored book, Stepfamilies (Kadokawa, 2021, in Japanese), an academic journal article, “Similarities and variations in stepfamily dynamics among selected Asian societies,” (Journal of Family Issues, Vol.41, No.7, 2020), and a book chapter, “Remarriage and stepfamilies,” (S. R. Quah ed., The Routledge Handbook of Families in Asia, Routledge, 2015).