Culture their caregivers’ eyes (Gonzalez-Mena, J., &

April 7, 2019 Religion

Culture plays an important role on how children make sense of the world. Through each individual culture, children learn which behaviors are preferred and which are discouraged. It is important for caregivers to respect different cultural backgrounds in order to improve and shape child development. In order to do that, you must first know how culture is defined when referring to child development. Culture is the patterns of behavior and thinking that people living in social groups learn, create, and share (Taylor, 2006). Culture includes beliefs, behavior rules, language, rituals, food, etc.
Infants begin to develop a sense of self. “Their identity formation comes as they absorb the images of themselves they see reflected in their caregivers’ eyes (Gonzalez-Mena, J., ; Eyer, D. W., 2018, pg. 284). They make observations and then begin to imitate them. This is why when a child is born, they adapt to that particular way of life. Members of this family will have a certain language, type of food they eat, religion, type of dress, types of activities they engage in, and so on. All of this is defined as their culture. Children adapt to this culture because the family is its first agent of socialization.
The first thing I want to discuss is a bicultural child. Bicultural refers to children who grow up in a two-cultured family (Gonzalez-Mena, J., ; Eyer, D. W., 2018, pg.194). This is something special to me because my daughter grew up in a bicultural home. Although we raised her the “American” way, we incorporated culture and traditions. Typically growing up in a bicultural environment, an infant also becomes bilingual. Although there has been a concern that being bilingual leads to a delay in language, main milestones are being reached at the same age in both monolingual and bilingual children (Grosjean, 2010, Chapter 15). It is said that if a child is able to use both languages, they are considered to be more flexible in their cognitive processes. We chose to speak to our daughter in English, however, when family was around, she heard us speaking Farsi. Although she grew up hearing Farsi, she is not bilingual in it because English has always been the primary language we chose for her. If I would’ve done my research and seen that learning two languages at a time did not have major affects on milestones, I would’ve made both Farsi and English equally important to learn.
Culture affects parenting styles used in raising children and in turn affects the type of attachment the child will develop. Mary Ainsworth has done a study called ‘Strange Situation’ and identifies three types of attachment. The first type of attachment is ‘Secure attachment’. This is when the infant prefers their caregiver over a stranger. The infant cries when the caregiver leaves, but will stop when they return. The second type is ‘Insecure-Resistant attachment’. This is when the infant stays close to the caregiver before they leave and when they return, the infant will show both approach and avoidance type of behaviors toward their mother. The third type of attachment is ‘Insecure-avoidant attachment’. This is when infants don’t cry when they are left alone. When the caregiver returns, the infant ignores or avoids them (Gonzalez-Mena, J., & Eyer, D. W., 2018, pg. 101).
Ainsworth conducted this study in the United States and it covered mostly American children. So in 1988, Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg conducted 32 more studies of 2000 infants in eight different countries and found that most of them possessed a secure attachment. Developing a ‘secure attachment’ does tend to be the “norm” in cross county studies, however there are differences between cultures.
A study done in Germany found that some infants formed an Insecure-avoidant attachment and the rest, a secure attachment. Independence is something German parents highly value, however, they also believe that the secure attachment behavior is too “clingy” and they discourage it. A study done in Japan showed high levels of insecure-resistant attachment and a few of insecure-avoidant attachment. Research shows that Japan requires that the infant is to never be left alone or rarely left in the care of anyone else. Due to this belief, when a child is left alone, they become very unhappy and when the caregiver returns, the child will approach with great caution in fear that they may be abandoned again (Ijzendoorn & Kroonenberg, 1988, pg. 147-156).
Some people may be unaware that there are major cultural differences in daily routines, such as, toileting, feeding, and napping. When it comes to potty training, most of us believe we start it when the child is “ready”. We know they are ready because they will be mature enough to handle their own clothes, hand washing, and toileting on their own. However, in some cultures, babies are held so much, that when it comes to starting the toileting process, the child believes the parent will need to be fully involved in the process (Hale, 1983, pg. 70).
There are many cultural differences in the feeding practices of infants/toddlers. Some cultures believe that infants should only be breast-fed. However, some cultures believe it is ok to supplement formula for breast milk. Another cultural difference arises in the timing to introduce solid foods. The difference here comes from some cultures focusing on self-feeding as an important step towards independence. While, some cultures forbid fingers from touching foods and playing with food is discouraged. When a child is spoon-fed by a parent or caregiver, they can see how much food the child actually intakes. Some children who feed themselves can make a “mess” of it and essentially does not intake as much, leaving the parent or caregiver to not know if they got enough food. So, some parents prefer to spoon feed their child, even up to the age of four, just to ensure their child eats enough.
As in toileting and feeding routines, cultural differences and values arise in napping routines. Since the development of SIDS, people have become more sensitive to the back to sleep movement and also discourages co-sleeping. In some cultures, it is believed that when the infant is sleeping, the parent or caregiver needs to be in close proximity. This is especially true when mothers are breast-feeding, so they begin to co-sleep. In other cultures that encourage independence, a child sleeps in a crib.


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