Japanese Sociological Review
Online ISSN : 1884-2755
Print ISSN : 0021-5414
ISSN-L : 0021-5414
Individualization of the Family
Masahiro YAMADA
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2004 Volume 54 Issue 4 Pages 341-354


In a modern society, the family has been considered as a realm that is never individualized at the point that its relations cannot be chosen and are as difficult to be dissolved as nationality. In recent years individualization as a result of the increase of choice has been penetrating through these two realms.
The concept 'individualization of the family' has been discussed in Japanese family sociologists from the 1980's. That has reflected the fact that the family norms have become weak as the family has diversified.
It is important to distinguish two forms seen in the individualization of the family. One is “individualization limited within family, ” that is, the increase of choice of family forms and family members' behavior under the condition that family relations are never dissolved.
Second, as Beck and Bauman have stressed recently, is that the increasing tendency for people to choose or dissolve their family relations themselves. I call it “essential individualization of the family.” From the viewpoint of the individual, it means greater freedom to set the boundary of the family.
The “individualization limited within the inside family” inevitably triggers struggles among the family members.
The “essential individualization of the family” leads to the following results : (1) family relations become unstable and at risk; (2) classification of the family becomes less defined and a difference arises in the realization of a family by charm and economic power of the individual; (3) narcissism spreads and people come to see the family as an instrument for their needs; and (4) the family becomes a mere fantasy.

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