Bornstein, Cote, Putnick, and Hendricks
As the world grows ever smaller and more interconnected, people around the globe are increasingly exposed to cultural influences other than the ones that they grew up knowing. How culture shapes human behavior is, thus, a critical area of inquiry that is increasingly relevant today. America, for example, is a country composed of acculturating peoples, the countries of origin of those acculturating peoples are constantly changing, and acculturation is a major transforming force on child rearing and health, parenting and family functioning, and human development. In the CFRS we study child development and parenting from a cross-cultural perspective generally as well as focusing on families acculturating to the United States.
Parenting Behavior of Acculturating Mothers
At 5 1/2 months, South American mothers in the U.S. engaged in more social behavior, talked to their infants more, and provided more auditory stimulation in their infants' environment than Japanese American mothers in the U.S. Like their mothers, South American infants engaged in more social behaviors than Japanese American infants, even when the behavior of the interactional partner was controlled. No cultural differences emerged in mother's nurturing, encouragement of infants’ locomotor development, or didactic behavior, suggesting that mothers in these two cultural groups foster children's health, physical, and cognitive growth, respectively, based on the infants' developmental needs rather than cultural proscriptions. Most of the infant behaviors showed no cultural differences, suggesting that these behaviors may be canalized during early infancy, or that cultural differences in these behaviors only become apparent at later ages. We also examined relations among and between maternal and infant behaviors. Japanese American and South American mothers' social behaviors related to their nurturing, language, and didactic behavior, suggesting that these mothers may be attempting to incorporate behaviors that are valued in both societies into their interactions with their infants. Only Japanese American infants’ social behavior related to their exploratory behavior. Mother-infant interaction appears to be complementary across different cultural contexts.
Parenting Beliefs of Acculturating Mothers
Another study investigated parenting cognitions (attributions, self-perceptions) among Japanese American and South American mothers longitudinally, when children were 5 and 20 months of age. Patterns of differences in the parenting cognitions of Japanese American and South American immigrant mothers appear to reflect traditional cultural beliefs about children and parenting. Mothers' cultural cognitions were largely stable, as were Japanese American mothers' parenting cognitions. Central to a concept of culture is the expectation that different peoples possess different ideas as they behave in different ways with respect to childrearing. We compared Japanese American immigrant mothers' parenting cognitions to mothers in Japan and European American mothers in the United States, and South American immigrant mothers' parenting cognitions were compared to mothers in Argentina and European American mothers in the United States. Generally, South American immigrant mothers' parenting cognitions more closely resembled those of mothers in the United States, whereas Japanese immigrant mothers’ cognitions tended to be similar to mothers in Japan or intermediate between Japanese and U.S. mothers. Our findings suggest that South American immigrant mothers more readily adopt U.S. parenting beliefs than Japanese immigrant mothers. One implication of this study is that immigrant mothers from different cultural groups do not necessarily share the childrearing beliefs of mainstream U.S. parents. The study also suggests that one should not simply take generation level into account when attempting to understand immigrant parents, but also the country of origin.
Acculturating Mothers’ Knowledge of Child Behavior and Development
Parent's knowledge about child development and childrearing is relevant to pediatric practice, parent-child interactions, and child development. In one study, we investigated parenting knowledge in two groups (Japanese and South American) of immigrant mothers to the United States. Immigrant mothers scored about 70% on the evaluation of parenting knowledge, significantly lower than U.S. Mothers. The majority of immigrant mother's incorrect answers were to questions about normative child development. Parents' knowledge is relevant to pediatricians' evaluations of the health and welfare of children as understood by their parents. Gaps in parenting knowledge have implications for clinical interactions with parents, child diagnosis, pediatric training, and parent education. Parenting knowledge is vital to parents' evaluation of their children's behaviors and development and to parents' everyday decisions about their children's behaviors and development and to parents' everyday decisions about their children's care. We also studied parenting knowledge in a sample of Brazilian mothers and fathers. The average knowledge score obtained by mothers was significantly greater than the average score obtained by fathers. Mothers and fathers in the same family were correlated in their parenting knowledge. For mothers, education and child age predicted knowledge score, but for fathers only education predicted knowledge score.
Mother-Infant Emotional Relationships in Cross-Cultural Perspective
We used country and regional contrasts to examine culture-common and community-specific variation in mother-infant emotional relationships. Altogether, 220 Argentine, Italian, and U.S. American mothers and their daughters and sons, living in rural and metropolitan settings, were observed at home at infant age 5 months. Both variable- and person-centered perspectives of dyadic emotional relationships were analyzed. Supporting the notion that adequate emotional relationships are a critical and culture-common characteristic of human infant development, across all samples most dyads scored in the adaptive range in terms of emotional relationships. Giving evidence of community-specific characteristics, Italian mothers were more sensitive, and Italian infants more responsive, than Argentine and U.S. mothers and infants; in addition, rural mothers were more intrusive than metropolitan mothers, and rural dyads more likely than expected to be classified as mid-range in emotional relationships and less likely to be classified as high in emotional relationships. Adaptive emotional relationships appear to be a culture-common characteristic of mother-infant dyads near the beginning of life, but this relational construct is moderated by community-specific (country and regional) context.
Parenting Attributions and Attitudes in Cross-Cultural Perspective
This article used the Parenting Across Cultures Project to evaluate similarities and differences in mean levels and relative agreement between mothers’ and fathers’ attributions and attitudes in parenting in 9 countries. Mothers and fathers reported their perceptions of causes of successes and failures in caregiving and their progressive versus authoritarian childrearing attitudes. Gender and cultural similarities and differences in parents’ attributions and attitudes in 9 countries were analyzed: China, Colombia, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, the Philippines, Sweden, Thailand, and the United States. Although mothers and fathers did not differ in any attribution, mothers reported more progressive parenting attitudes and modernity of childrearing attitudes than did fathers, and fathers reported more authoritarian attitudes than did mothers. Country differences also emerged in all attributions and attitudes that were examined. Mothers’ and fathers’ attributions and their attitudes were moderately correlated, but parenting attitudes were more highly correlated in parents than were attributions. We draw connections among the findings across the 9 countries and outline implications for understanding similarities and differences in mothers’ and fathers’ parenting attributions and attitudes.
Parental Attitudes about Punishment and Aggression toward Children in Cross-Cultural Perspective
The Convention on the Rights of the Child has prompted countries to protect children from abuse and exploitation. Exposure to domestic violence and corporal punishment are risk factors in children’s development. This study investigated how women’s attitudes about domestic violence are related to attitudes about corporal punishment, how their attitudes are related to harsh behaviors toward children, and whether country-wide norms regarding domestic violence and corporal punishment are related to psychological aggression and physical violence toward children. Data were drawn from the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, a nationally representative and internationally comparable household survey developed by UNICEF. Measures of domestic violence and discipline were completed by 85,999 female caregivers of children between the ages of 2 and 14 years from families in 25 low- and middle-income countries. Mothers who believed that husbands were justified in hitting their wives were more likely to believe that corporal punishment is necessary to rear children. Mothers who believed that husbands were justified in hitting their wives and that corporal punishment is necessary to rear children were more likely to report that their child had experienced psychological aggression and physical violence. Country-wide norms regarding the acceptability of husbands hitting wives and advisability of corporal punishment moderated the links between mothers’ attitudes and their behaviors toward children. Pediatricians can address parents’ psychological aggression and physical violence toward children by discussing parents’ attitudes and behaviors within a framework that incorporates social norms regarding the acceptability of domestic violence and corporal punishment.
Cultural Orientation of Early Adolescents in Rural Haiti
Adolescents are an emerging population in Haiti, particularly after the deadly 2010 earthquake. The steady penetration of U.S. culture into this poor, disaster-prone country begs the question, Do today’s adolescents possess a similar fondness for their home country, culture, and traditional family values as did Haitians of old? Or are they more oriented toward U.S. culture? Early adolescents (N = 105, 52% female, M = 12.87 years, SD = .86) in rural Haiti reported their cultural orientation toward Haitian culture and U.S. culture as well as their family obligations beliefs. Findings revealed high Haitian orientation, very high family obligations (boys especially), and very low U.S. orientation, although adolescents who interacted more frequently with U.S. tourists and those who consumed more U.S. fast food had higher U.S. culture orientation. Despite severe challenges, rural Haitian early adolescents demonstrate remarkable allegiance to their home country, culture, and traditional family values.