Culture and social influence on child development

Culture and social influence on child development
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Culture and social influence on child development

Highlights

Child development occurs in humans between birth and the end of adolescence, as the individual progresses from dependency to increasing autonomy

Child development occurs in humans between birth and the end of adolescence, as the individual progresses from dependency to increasing autonomy. Culture plays an important role in influencing this development, and what is considered 'normal' development varies greatly from one culture to the next. The society and culture in which one grows up influences everything from developmental milestones and parenting styles to what kinds of hardship one is more likely to face.

While biological milestones such as stages of physiological changes tend to be universal across cultures, social milestones, such as the age at which children begin formal schooling or individuate from their parents, can differ greatly from one culture to the next. Effective parenting styles also vary as a function of culture. While the authoritative parenting style is the style that is most encouraged, other cultures' parenting style varies with region, culture, and families. Race and racial stereotypes can have detrimental effects on a child's development. Race is also closely linked to class, and children of colour are still statistically much more likely to lack access to basic resources and to experience economic hardship.

Parenting styles

Effective parenting styles also vary as a function of culture. While the authoritative parenting style (characterised by the parent giving reasonable demands, setting consistent limits, expressing warmth and affection, and listening to the child's point of view) is the style that is most encouraged in modern society, this is not necessarily the case in other cultures. Children raised by authoritative parents tend to have high self-esteem and social skills. Authoritarian parenting (characterised by parents placing high value on conformity and obedience, tightly monitoring their children, and expressing less warmth) is seen as more beneficial in other cultures. For instance, first-generation Chinese American children raised by authoritarian parents did just as well in school as their peers who were raised by authoritative parents.

Stereotype threat

Stereotypes and racialised expectations often contribute to stereotype threat, in which a child experiences anxiety or concern in a situation that has the potential to confirm a negative stereotype. The fear of fulfilling that stereotype can lead to additional anxiety, which in turn can reduce performance. For example, stereotype threat can lower the intellectual performance of students taking standardised tests. This may cause students to feel additional pressure and anxiety.

The impact of culture and social has a long-lasting effect beginning right from a child's formative years

(The writer is Psychologist, Woman & Child Well-Being Consultant)

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