- Applied Developmental Psychology: Theory, Practice, and Research from Japan
Japan's extensive research literature on child development and education is not broadly known outside Japan. Unlike large departments of anthropology, history, economics, or business, North American departments of child development and education rarely include Japan specialists. Research conducted in Japan is seldom viewed as central to broader disciplinary progress. Happily, this edited anthology of Japanese research may change that. At the very least, it will give North American researchers a glimpse into the many ways that Japanese researchers have brought their own research questions and cultural sensibilities to the fields of educational and psychological research.
The book begins with a provocative foreword by Hiroshi Azuma, a giant of Japanese psychology and education research, who muses on the nature of culture in a time of unprecedented globalization. Coining a distinction between "functional culture" (the total set of cultures that constitute a milieu for a child's development) and "traditional culture," Azuma writes:
any data on psychological development must be collected and interpreted in relation to regional and historical elements. Human development must be studied as embedded in a dynamically functioning group culture. Generalizability may be obtained by averaging out specificities, but then what we have will be just a dry, lifeless skeleton of understanding. More lively understanding results from carefully analyzing how specific behaviors interact with cultural conditions that are always bound by time and place.(p. xiii)
The book's five sections present Japanese research conducted in five topical areas of child development research: technology and media influences, cognitive development and education, children with disabilities, family research with policy implications, and peer relations. Many eminent Japanese researchers are represented in the volume, and in a number of cases the volume provides the first English-language entry into large bodies of Japanese research. Some of the chapters address issues particular to Japan, such as the development of father-child relationships in taidō funin and tanshin funin families (i.e., families who accompany or stay behind during a father's workplace transfer); the development of Japanese preschoolers' literacy in the dual orthographic systems of hiragana and katakana; manga literacy; [End Page 475] and student attitudes toward learning abacus versus school mathematics. Other chapters address issues that have long traditions of research in other countries (e.g., investigations of maternal employment, television, and child abuse). All of the studies, however, take seriously Azuma's injunction that human development must be studied as embedded in group culture. Because the authors take cultural context seriously and offer background information on various issues in education and child development, there is much to interest Japan specialists, including policy histories and demographic information on issues including child abuse and neglect, bullying, school refusal, mathematics and science learning, paternal and maternal employment, special education, foster care, and children's media use (including television, video games, and manga).
Contributors were asked to write about five elements of their research: applied, psychological, developmental, cultural, and theoretical. In many cases, the Japanese researchers have built or joined theories in ways that will be novel to readers in other countries. For example, a fascinating chapter by Shin'ichi Ichikawa pulls together what are typically diverse research traditions in the United States—motivation research, cognitive psychology, and counseling—and describes a "cognitive counseling" intervention designed to foster intrinsic motivation and other personal qualities that support students' personal development as learners, rather than simply their acquisition of information. Ichikawa's intervention rests on ideas about learning that, while deeply rooted in Japanese ethnopsychology, will be novel to many non-Japanese researchers. For example, cognitive counseling intervention rests in the view that learning requires autonomous personal effort likely to emerge from a focus on process (rather than rewards) and that interpersonal relationships can help learners build the will and skill to diagnose and improve their own motivational and learning processes. Likewise, Kiyomi Akita's chapter on Japanese preschoolers' development of print literacy masterfully integrates research...