Unit 6 - Developmental Psychology and Culture
Imagine showing a video of parenting practices of rural Cameroonian mothers (a country in West Africa) to urban German mothers, and vice versa - studies have found that mothers react puzzled or even horrified to many of the practices of other cultural contexts, starting with the simple judgment on how much body contact is desirable for a child.
Similar discrepancies are plain to see when we go through questions related to the psychological development across cultural contexts: If a culture expects most young children to assume responsibilities like tending flocks of animals while their parents of 13 or 14 years cultivate and harvest crops, would those parents be considered awkward or abusive teenagers? Can eight year old children teach themselves math as they set up displays, take payments, and make change for customers in an open bazaar? Long before the articulation of Piaget's stage theory children in most cultures were given direct or hands-on training to perform physical tasks adults thought were relatively appropriate based on observations of other children's levels of mastery.
When one considers that children are probably the most important resource that any country in the world possesses and that the future literally belongs to them, it becomes immediately apparent how important it is to try and understand the relationships between culture and human development. Issues that have been considered in this regard are summarized in the contributions throughout this unit; for example how childhood socialization practices gears children towards trajectories of independence or interrelatedness (Heidi Keller), how developmental pathways can better be understood in an ecological framework (Rachel Seginer), and how cultural contexts vary even in the actual presence of a period generally refered to as ‘adolescence’ in the Western literature (see the contribution by Chuansheng Chen and Susan Farruggia) – to name just a few highlights.