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How Culture Affects Child-Rearing

Understanding Invisible Convictions
Being Human

Children playing in QuitoThe culture we in which we are raised has a strong effect on our unconscious biases and beliefs. Each of us has deeply-held cultural convictions that determine how we rear our children, yet these same convictions are often invisible (i.e. unconscious) to those who hold them. 

For example, parent-child interactions among middle-class European-Americans reflect a belief in the independence and autonomy of the self, e.g. parents will ask children to make choices or reinforce that child's self-esteem. In contrast, among Asian-American families, the self is more likely to be seen as interdependent and relational, and so parents will frequently tell children to be respectful of others or will make decisions for them.

In a 2005 talk to the Bing Nursery School at Stanford, Hazel Rose Markus elucidated how these cultural differences shape children, who will later shape their own children, perpetuating the culture and its values through time.

Markus further noted how these cultural imperatives about child rearing are reinforced in the media:

She displayed a Gerber’s ad showing a toddler trying to escape an adult’s grasping hand and proclaiming the company’s foods “a good source of iron, zinc and independence,”... For contrast, she pointed to a couple of Korean ads. One showed a group of teen-age boys wearing identical punk hairstyles and a stripe of greasepaint along the left cheekbone, accompanied by the statement, “With this snack, you can be as unique as us.” “So being unique is okay as long as the whole group is unique,” Markus observed. ...To general laughter, Markus explained: “That sounds odd to an American ear, but of course, if you think of a more interdependent model, what you’re trying to do is produce family harmony, fit in, meet the expectations of your mother-in-law, express filial and generational piety—it makes sense.”

Markus' conclusion: there are many functional ways of being a self, all of which are influenced by our cultural surroundings. Culture shapes how we perceive the universe, and how we shape the people in it. How our parents raised us, and how we raise our own children reflects our cultural views, both consciously and unconsciously. In recognizing that, we can better understand why we think and behave the ways we do.

Read the full article here.


photo by epsos.de

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