The human being development cannot be separate from each country’s development. And each country’s development cannot be separate from each person’s development. As all people know, each person’s development is from infant to elder. Without any doubts, the infant is the basis of this world, and this is why people should focus on the problems on the infant.
What are the interdependent and the independent cultural similarities and differences in how parents treat their children during infancy? This is one of the core questions when researchers mention the infant. It is true that there are thousands of countries and cultures in this world, but researchers can divide it into two categories: interdependent culture and independent culture.
The co-sleeping problems or sleep arrangement is an interesting topic under culture problem. According to Greenfield, Suzuki, and Rothstein-Fisch (2006), in the beginning, American families would co-sleep with their infants, but they probably stopped this when infants are about four months old, then the parents and infants would sleep separately. However, in other countries, such as Mayan, Japan, and South Korea, parents slept with their infants not only for the first few years, but also for when children grow somewhat older (Siegler, DeLoache, Eisenberg, & Saffran, 2014). What is the reason for causing such a difference? The answer is clear.
Through the interviews of Mayan and American parents, the researchers announced that cultural values played an important part in the people’s sleeping arrangements. (Morelli, G. A., Rogoff, B., Oppenheim, D., & Goldsmith, D., 1992). The American culture values contributed people to develop independence and self-reliance, and American parents believed that make children sleep alone would promote these characteristics much usefully (Morelli et al., 1992). Furthermore, most American children sleep alone at about six months of age. The separation before going to bed gradually developed as a ritual, which aimed to calm the children down and reduced their fear of being alone. The ritual contains many different activities, such as telling stories by the book, singing songs, and so on. Also, parents would give their children some comforting objects to bed with them (Morelli et al., 1992).
In contrast, the cultural values of Mayan focused on the interdependence relationship among people. Mayan’s parents believed that co-sleep could help them to establish an intimate relationship with their children and help children to get rid of the distress at being alone. Also, co-sleep could help them deal with problems that children are having more quickly (Greenfield et al., 2006). Also, Mayan mothers announced that they always slept with their children together and at the same time until the children were about two years old. And most of them would choose to co-sleep with children continuously. Because of the co-sleeping way. It was hard for the Mayan family to develop a separation ritual as American parents did. Also, most of the children did not have the experience for bedding with comfort objects, such as dolls (Morelli et al., 1992).
To sum up, on the topic of sleep arrangement, the treat for the infant before age 2 was similar for all culture because it was related to the infant’s life health. The difference appeared after the infant grew older because when the requirements for infants’ life health had satisfied, parents started focusing on the infants’ characteristics.
The purpose of the current study is also to research “What are cultural similarities and differences in how parents treat their children during infancy?”. There are two hypotheses. The first one is that people show cultural similarities when parents treat their infants for life health, such as safely interacting with a low-aged infant, and calming a crying baby. The second one is that people show cultural differences when parents treat their infants for characteristics, such as teaching infants by speech.
There are three videos of parents and children interacting on YouTube. “An intimate conversation between mother and daughter,” “Child Space Method and Parent-Child Interaction,” and “Encouraging Language Development: A Positive Parent-Child Interaction.” And there are two search engines: Google which represents American culture and Baidu which represents Chinese culture. First, watching three videos and points out the differences or similarities there are. Second, using two different search engines to search the same problem “How to calm a crying baby,” and demonstrate the differences or similarities of advice from websites.
According to three videos on YouTube, I found that the ways that parents and children are interacting with each other were similar. At first, I noticed that parents would make themselves clean, then touched infants. Second, one of the most common ways for parents and infants to interact was that parents always smile at the baby and used some toys that could produce sounds to interest infants. Third, parents always used a polite tone to say a positive word to their infants. At last, parents would move infants a little bit if infants waved their hands and feet drastically.
What’s more, as reported by the advice I found through both search engines; the result showed that American culture and Chinese culture used a similar way to calm down crying baby. For the beginning, the websites showed the reason why babies were crying. And the thing parents should do was that tried the matching solutions. The most common crying reason is that routine crying, which means infants were overestimated. The solutions were cuddling, swaddling, and walking with the baby, which could provide body contact with the baby. Another common reason for baby crying was that hunger. The parents needed to check the clock first, and if it has been about three hours since the last feeding, the baby should be fed immediately.
Thus, the first main hypothesis was supported: people showed similarities culturally when parents treat their infants for life health, but I had not found any video or advice materials to support the second hypothesis.
Because of the limited research method in this study, the only thing we could see was that the cultural similarities in how parents treat the infant. But did the cultural difference exist? The answer was definitely yes. In the previous study, Morelli et al. (1992) and Greenfield et al. (2006) revealed that different culture had the different sleep arrangement patterns, which depended on what infant’s characteristics parents wanted to develop- Mayan parents want to develop the interdependence, so they chose to sleep together even children grew older, while American parents chose sleep separately because they want to develop the independence of infants.
Cultural difference not only is reflected by sleep arrangements but also be reflected by infants’ mother’s speech. Take Japanese and America as an example. For both Japanese and American culture, mothers’ speech shared lots of similar characteristics, such as linguistic simplification, frequent repetition, and speech adjustments at infants’ different age. However, there was a different key point between Japanese and American mothers, which contributed by the cultural values. That is, Japanese mothers preferred used toys to refer to social routines for their infants, while American mothers preferred just labeled toys frequently and consistently (Fernald and Morikawa, 1993). Japanese parents would encourage infants to show empathy toward a toy to develop their positive feelings. Also, Japanese mothers paid more attention to vividly and taught infants cultural norms in polite speech. The reason was that Japanese mothers more likely hoped infants to have skills with social expressions as early as possible than American mothers (Fernald and Morikawa, 1993).
Similarly, because China and Japan are all collectiveness culture country, so the children probably shared a similar characteristic. Chinese culture contributed people to develop interdependence among people and close relatives, while European American culture leads parents to focus on infants’ independence of individuals. Because of the different cultural values, there was a difference between Chinese children and American children- Chinese children’s memories associated with other people, especially close relatives more than American children; American children’s memories more associated with individual’s feelings and desires (Siegler et al., 2014).
To conclude, parents from different cultures have similarities and differences in treating their children during infancy. Some culture contributes parents to emphasize infants’ interdependence- such as Mayan parents’ co-sleep pattern, Japanese mutual speech which emphasized social norms; Some culture contributes parents to pay more attention to children’s independence, such as American culture. It is true that people cannot combine all together then make a general conclusion, because there are too many different cultures that exist in this world. To give infants a better living environment, this topic still needs going further.
- Fernald, A., & Morikawa, H. (1993). Common Themes and Cultural Variations in Japanese and American Mothers’ Speech to Infants. Child Development, 64(3), 637-656. Doi:10.2307/1131208
- Greenfield, P. M., Suzuki, L. K., & Rothstein-Fisch, C. (2006). Cultural pathways through human development. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Series Eds.) & K. A. Renninger & I. E. Sigel (Vol. Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 4: Child psychology in practice (6th ed., pp. 655–699). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
- Morelli, G. A., Rogoff, B., Oppenheim, D., & Goldsmith, D. (1992). Cultural variation in infants’ sleeping arrangements: Questions of independence. Developmental Psychology, 28, 604–613. Doi: 10.1037/0012- 1622.214.171.1244
- Siegler, R., DeLoache, J., Eisenberg, N., & Saffran, J. (2014). How Children Develop. Worth, 2014.