Lecture Examines Marriage and Happiness in U.S. and Japan

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Hiroshi Ono, Associate sociology professor at Texas A&M University, gives a lecture Friday about his research on marital happiness in Japan and the United States.

Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana | Daily Texan Staff

The happiest periods of marriage occur with the early honeymoon phase and later on following the departure of children from the house, according to a study comparing marriage within the United States and Japan by a Texas A&M researcher.

Hiroshi Ono, an associate sociology professor at Texas A&M University, examined the causes of marital happiness in Japan and the United Sates during a lecture on campus this Friday, while discussing a research paper he co-wrote with Kristen Schultz Lee, a University of Buffalo assistant sociology professor. Ono based his conclusions about marital happiness in the two countries on an international survey called the General Social Surveys, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center.

Ono said his goal in analyzing the survey was to find a way to effectively quantify the happiness of individuals based on specific factors of their marriage.

“There is a way to scientifically estimate happiness, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” Ono said.

Ono’s research found some causes of happiness are the same in the United States and Japan.

For example, once children enter the picture, happiness levels drop and typically do not rise back up until the children leave for college or reach the age of 20.

He also said the couple’s age and income levels affected their level of happiness the same way in both countries.

Ono’s data analysis proves that happiness levels drop immediately after the couple gets married and takes a steeper dip for a period of time around where a mid-life crisis would occur. He said as the couple gets older happiness increases again.

He said some other factors affect individuals differently based their gender and on whether they are in Japan or the United States.

“What makes people happy in the U.S. differs from what makes people happy in Japan,” Ono said.

He said the factors that make men in the U.S. happier align with what makes women in
Japan happier.

According to the research, Ono said U.S. men are happier if their wives are not working or, alternatively, if they are financially dependent on their wives. He said that Japanese women are happier in homemaking roles or if they have a higher household income.

Robert Oppenheim, director of the Center for East Asian Studies, said the lecture helped him understand the subject on stronger footing.

“Happiness research has been in the news, but it’s the first time I’ve seen somebody explain it in an academic context,” Oppenheim said.

Patricia Malachlan, associate professor of government and Asian studies, said the talk left her with a greater understanding of the complexities of gender within Japanese culture.

“This was one of those talks where I leave thinking about things in new ways,” Maclachlan said. “It shed new light on things that we intuitively know about Japan.”

Printed on October 10, 2011: Study compares marriage in US, Japan