Tagged / behaviour

How culture influences children’s development

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

By Dr Ching-Yu HuangBournemouth University.

From educational toys to governmental guidelines and detailed nursery progress reports, there are lots of resources available to help parents track and facilitate their children’s development. But while there are tricks we can use to teach children to talk, count, draw or respect others, a surprisingly big part of how they develop is determined by the culture they grow up in.

Child development is a dynamic, interactive process. Every child is unique in interacting with the world around them, and what they invoke and receive from others and the environment also shapes how they think and behave. Children growing up in different cultures receive specific inputs from their environment. For that reason, there’s a vast array of cultural differences in children’s beliefs and behaviour.

Language is one of the many ways through which culture affects development. We know from research on adultsthat languages forge how people think and reason. Moreover, the content and focus of what people talk about in their conversations also vary across cultures. As early as infancy, mothers from different cultures talk to their babies differently. German mothers tend to focus on their infants’ needs, wishes or them as a person. Mothers of the African tribal group Nso, on the other hand, focus more on social context. This can include the child’s interactions with other people and the rules surrounding it.

Masai children. Syndromeda/Shutterock

This early exposure affects the way children attend to themselves or to their relationship with others – forming their self image and identity. For example, in Western European and North American countries, children tend to describe themselves around their unique characteristics – such as “I am smart” or “I am good at drawing”. In Asian, African, Southern European and South American countries, however, children describe themselves more often around their relationship with others and social roles. Examples of this include “I am my parents’ child” or “I am a good student”.

Because children in different cultures differ in how they think about themselves and relate to others, they also memorise events differently. For example, when preschoolers were asked to describe a recent special personal experience, European-American children provided more detailed descriptions, recalled more specific events and stressed their preferences, feelings and opinions about it more than Chinese and Korean children. The Asian children instead focused more on the people they had met and how they related to themselves.

Cultural effects of parenting

Parents in different cultures also play an important role in moulding children’s behaviour and thinking patterns. Typically, parents are the ones who prepare the children to interact with wider society. Children’s interaction with their parents often acts as the archetype of how to behave around others – learning a variety of socio-cultural rules, expectations and taboos. For example, young children typically develop a conversational style resembling their parents’ – and that often depends on culture.

European-American children frequently provide long, elaborative, self-focused narratives emphasising personal preferences and autonomy. Their interaction style also tends to be reciprocal, taking turns in talking. In contrast, Korean and Chinese children’s accounts are usually brief, relation-oriented, and show a great concern with authority. They often take a more passive role in the conversations. The same cultural variations in interaction are also evident when children talk with an independent interviewer.

Children in the Western world question their parents’ authority more. Gargonia/Shutterstock

Cultural differences in interactions between adults and children also influence how a child behaves socially. For instance, in Chinese culture, where parents assume much responsibility and authority over children, parents interact with children in a more authoritative manner and demand obedience from their children. Children growing up in such environments are more likely to comply with their parents’ requests, even when they are reluctant to do so.

By contrast, Chinese immigrant children growing up in England behave more similarly to English children, who are less likely to follow parental demands if unwilling.

From class to court

As the world is getting increasingly globalised, knowledge regarding cultural differences in children’s thinking, memory and how they interact with adults has important practical implications in many areas where you have to understand a child’s psychology. For instance, teachers may need to assess children who come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Knowing how children coming from a different culture think and talk differently can help the teacher better interview them as part of an oral academic test, for example.

Another important area is forensic investigations. Being aware that Chinese children tend to recall details regarding other people and be brief in their initial response to questions may enable the investigator to allow more time for narrative practice to prepare the child to answer open-ended questions and prompt them with follow up questions.

Also, knowing that Chinese children may be more sensitive and compliant to authority figures – and more obedient to a perpetrator within the family – an interviewer may need to spend more time in building rapport to help the child relax and reduce their perceived authority. They should also be prepared to be patient with reluctance in disclosing abuse within families.

While children are unique and develop at their own pace, the cultural influence on their development is clearly considerable. It may even affect how quickly children reach different developmental milestones, but research on this complicated subject is still inconclusive. Importantly, knowledge about cultural differences can also help us pin down what all children have in common: an insatiable curiosity about the world and a love for the people around them.


Dr Ching-Yu Huang, Lecturer in Psychology, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

#TalkBU presents… Coping with stress in changing health behaviours

#TalkBU is a monthly lunchtime seminar on Talbot Campus, open to all students and staff at Bournemouth University and free to attend. Come along to learn, discuss and engage in a 20-30 minute presentation by an academic or guest speaker talking about their research and findings, with a Q&A to finish. 


Often our New Year resolutions involve changing unhealthy habits in the coming year. But how many of us have actually managed to change our unhealthy lifestyle and maintained it? Changes can be stressful, but how one manages the change can potentially ease that stress and make the change more achievable, which can potentially impact our physical and psychological well-being.

In this talk, Dr Fiona Ling will discuss her research that centres around physical activity behaviour change, and the extended implications on changing other health habits and public health promotions in order to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

When: Thursday 19 April at 1 – 2pm

Where: Room FG04, Fusion Building

Register here to attend

Click here to find out more about our future and previous #TalkBU events.

TheHorseCourse – changing behaviour in prisoners

Dr Ann Hemingway from BU’s School of Health and Social Care is working with Dr Rosie Meek from the University of Southampton to work with prisons to deliver TheHorseCourse, where horses are used to challenge offending behaviour.

The horses are trained to give clear and unbiased feedback on mental and emotional self control. Tasks are progressive and challenging, requiring the participants to remain calm and focused… or lose the plot! 

Prisoners are coached to overcome frustration and failure by taking control over their thoughts and feelings. The horses provide both motivation and feedback, and reliably create positive change with even the most difficult individuals.

Initial findings are extremely positive, with participants showing results such as:

  • better self control
  • greater engagement with available education
  • confidence as learners
  • stronger focus on positive goals
  • hope

The horsemanship goal of the 7 sessions is to gain Parelli Level 1 accreditation, the more important goal is to have the skills to lead constructive and satisfying lives.

One of the participants has commented: “”I’ve been on anger management courses, alcohol courses, things like that – this is much different, you’re learning it physical, not mental if you know what I mean. It’s helped me more, without a doubt. I don’t like talking. …Normally, with other courses you’re in a group of people… you have to talk about your issues and things like that, but here you get it out in a different way, you’re doing physical things not just talking. I’ve been doing that since I was 6 years of age and it’s never worked. I learnt a lot about myself. I can actually do things. I always say I can’t but I can.”

‎”From the video based evaluation undertaken so far it is clear to me that this intervention shows real innovation and promise and may indeed have the potential to reduce reoffending. To date there has been no published longitudinal evaluation focused on this type of intervention. It is for this reason that we have committed to undertaking a pilot evaluation.” Dr Ann Hemingway, Bournemouth University, (Public Health Interventions)
 
Reliably changing behaviour in the most difficult prisoners, to donate please visit: https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/thehorsecourse
 
Join TheHorseCourse Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/TheHorseCourse
 
Dr Ann Hemingway is also the course lead for BU’s MSc Public Health course (part-time and full-time options). Read more about the course to see how you could bring about positive changes in health promotion and influence policies to improve public health and wellbeing locally, nationally and internationally.