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Chapter 4

PSYC14: Chapter 4 - Culture and Developmental Processes.docx

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Michelle Hilscher

PSYC14: Chapter 4 Culture and Developmental Processes CULTURE AND TEMPERAMENT What is culture? Temperament- qualities of responsiveness to the environment that exist from birth and evoke different reactions from people in the babys world. It is considered to be a biologically based style of interacting in the world Some are more easy going, some are fussy from the moment the mother gives birth Although it is biologically based it does not mean that it is fixed at birth or impervious to experience, instead it reflects an interaction bw a childs predispositions and experiences in life; it can be modified over time Thomas and Chess (1977) describe three major categories of temperament: o Easy temperament- very regular, adaptable, mildly intense style of bhr that is positive and responsive o Difficult temperament- intense, irregular, withdrawing style that is marked by negative moods o Slow-to-warm temperament- take time to make transitions in activity and experiences. They may withdraw initially or respond negatively, given time and support they will adapt and react responsively A childs temperament style is believe to provide a foundation for later personality The Goodness of Fit between Temperament and Culture Thomas and Chess (1977) also developed the notion of goodness of fit- how well a childs temperament fits into the expectations and values of the parents, environment and culture If there is a mismatch, more negative child outcomes are expected; if there is a good match, better child outcomes are expected Research on Masai infants in Kenya: Investigated the important of goodness of fit bw an infants temperament and their environment They identified easy and difficult infants and followed them for several years What was considered difficult temperament by Western standards actually became a protective factor against malnutrition during a time of drought Those classified as difficult = greater chance of survival The difficult infants, who were active and fussy, demanded and consequently received more feeding and caring from mothers this temperament may be adaptive in one culture and maladaptive in another! We must interpret the infants dispositions and bhr in relation to the specific culture they may have diff meanings when placed in a diff cultural context. Cross-Cultural Studies on Temperament 2 fundamental differences If children of other culture have diff temperaments at birth, they will respond to the environment differently; they will evoke different response from caregivers of the environment. Earlier literature has compared North American or Western European infants to Asian infants with the conclusion that Asian infants seem to have a predisposition to be less irritable compared to North American or West. Euro infants Fredman (1947) found that Chinese American babies were calmer and more placid (easy going) than European American babies or African American babies. When a cloth was placed on the Chinese babies faces covering their noses, they had no response and just laid there quietly breathing. The other babies tried moving their heads and tried to pull it off Other studies of Chinese, Japanese and Hmong infants showed they were significantly less active, less irritable and less vocal than European American infants Another study found variation bw Asian countries too: Chinese and Japanese infants were compared, Chinese newborns more irritable compared to Japanese Temperament and Learning Culture The quiet and placid temperament in Asian backgrounds is further stabilized later in infancy = Chinese parents value the harmony through emotional restraint and emphasize and reinforce quiet bhrs. Temperament may therefore serve as a baseline biological predisposition of the infant that allows this type of learning to occur. In Japan, non-reactivity (not expressing emotions) is more valued than in western cultures where higher levels of reactivity are more acceptable 1 the differences in temperament may reflect each culture values about how to act/bhr Dimensions of Temperament: A Focus on Behavioural Inhibition Six temperamental dimensions have been identified: (1) activity level (motor movement and squirming) (2)smiling and laughing (sociability), (3) fear (showing distress aka behavioural inhibition), (4) distress to limitations (when goal is blocked), (5) soothability and (6) duration of orienting (how long they pay attn to an object w/o simulation) The study of fear (aka behavioural inhibition) has received the most attention cross culturally. Behavioural inhibition- as aspect of temperament where a child shows signs of wariness, discomfort, or distress when confronted w/ novel, challenging, or unfamiliar situations. Aka fearfulness or shyness. i.e. shy has been linked to their adjustment and social competence in North America being shy is not a desirable trait, seen as immature and less liked by peers than assertive children = it has also been linked to more anxiety, loneliness, negative and stressful family environment in China, it is a more desirable trait they are considered more mature, well behaved and understanding; tend to have high self-esteem and do well in school; more socially accepted by peers if a childs temperament matches what is valued in their culture (aka goodness of fit) then more positive developmental outcomes are expected culture provides the meanings and consequences related to temperament Cultures may change in terms of which temperamental traits are desirable. Chen (2009) study of urban and rural Chinese children demonstrates how cultural ideals concerning shyness are changing in context of globalization. Shyness was associated w/ leadership, social competence and academic achievement but only for children living in the rural areas vs urban areas seeing shyness associated w/ more depression, social and school problems (similar to what north America believes too) Sources behind Temperamental Differences Why does temperament differ across cultures? Developmental contextualism perspective differences in temperament reflect he differences in genetics and in reproductive histories as well as environmental and cultural pressures over generations that may have helped to produce minor biological differences in infants through a functionally adaptive process Saco-pollit (19
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