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Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Introduction to a comparative analysis between culture bound reaction to trauma; hikikomori V runaway.

Is hikikomori a culture bound syndrome? How does it compare with the culture reactive runaway syndrome more common in Europe and America? How can we conclude a social phenomena is in fact culture bound or not? These are a few of the questions I have been trying to answer for koeki`s ongoing research into how community service enables living science.

The proportion of suicides among young people in Japan is extremely high in comparison with other countries. Cabinet office figures set suicide as the #1 cause of death for every 5 year age group among people 15- 39. For those aged 15-34 Japan is the only G7 country where this is a fact.

HALF of all the deaths among people in their twenties in Japan are suicides. In contrast Americas highest suicide levels are in the older range group, highest for men over 60.

Suicide is closely connected to hikikomori for many reasons that cannot be applied to runaway.
The pressure on young people within the typical hikikomori age range of 14 to 30 -to find work and to stay in that work - or to find a club activity and stay in that activity and to co-operate correctly within a rigid peer group hierarchical system (kouhai/senpai) within Japanese society are factors that go towards creating pressure to isolate. As unemployment rates rise and the social stigma attached to any kind of so named drop out continues to prevail, this has created in natural turn a world of internet cafe hermits, neats and hikikomori..

Isolation -the key feature of hikikomori- is known to be a primary lead up to suicide (American Psychological Association: David Clark: 1998), where conversely runaway children and young adults seek company in peer groups and suicide statistics are much lower.

While both social phenomena are rooted in rebellion or reaction against authority, hikikomori is unique because it chooses to place the family as a safer haven than the peer group. This in turn, suggests that bullying and school pressure play a larger part in retreat than in the counterpart phenomena of runaway, where perhaps young people are fleeing the pressure from family pressure.

If we look at some of the parental values that parents traditionally instill in childrearing we can see where the shift to inside retreat may start. In Japan, such mantras as `don`t cause trouble for others` (めいわっくしないで)and respect your parents above all...serve as baselines for all Japanese children as they grow up compared to frequent mantras inbred in American, British and other Western country parental philosophy of ;`Be independent, speak your mind, follow your own path`, values which could be said to encourage a runaway response to pressures and problems.

This is of course an oversimplification, but it is a valid core difference that cannot be overlooked in the question we are answering; which is- can hikikomori be called culture bound or culture reactive?