Child-Rearing Practices in Different Cultures

by Beth Greenwood

    Parenting is an activity rooted not only in one’s own childhood experiences, but in the culture one grew up and lives in. Culture can have a powerful effect on parenting styles and practices, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For example, a culture in which the father is expected to be a stern disciplinarian and the breadwinner will have a different effect on child-rearing practices than one in which both parents work full time and parenting responsibilities are shared.

    Behavioral Expectations

    Parents have behavioral expectations about their children that are similar in many cultures, according to the CDC. Among the areas of consensus: children should be respectful and polite, not interrupt, be honest, share and do well in school. However, some cultures have additional expectations. Asian and white parents expect children to exert self-control, while black, Latino and American Indian fathers often feel their children should have a religious or spiritual foundation, according to the CDC. Asian, Latino or black fathers often expect their children to be assertive, independent and willingly take responsibility for their mistakes.

    Affection

    One area in which cultures often differ is in the ways parents display affection toward their children. West African, Arabic and Asia-Pacific communities often stop such practices as kissing or fondling a child once she becomes a toddler. However, some cultures consider physical attention such as bathing, skin care or braiding a child’s hair to be appropriate physical ways to express affection. Monetary rewards and praise are also signs of affection in these cultures, according to a presentation at the 2012 National Foster & Kinship Care Conference.

    Education

    Many parents see educational attainment as desirable for their children. In some Chinese families, however, physical punishment might be used to induce children to study hard and get good grades, according to the NFKCC. Furthermore, Asian and Indian families might also exert considerable pressure on their child to achieve scholastically. Parental involvement in activities such as checking a child’s homework also varies by culture. The Center for Public Education reports that 82 percent of white parents check homework, while 91 percent of Hispanic and 94 percent of black parents check homework.

    Physical Punishment

    Physical punishment is another area in which parents of different cultures act differently. Most parents view spanking as a last-resort strategy, but felt it was acceptable, according to the CDC. Black parents were more willing to spank a child in a public place because they felt the need to immediately respond to misbehavior. White and American Indian parents were less comfortable with spanking in public. Some black, Latino and white parents think it's acceptable to use a belt or strap for spanking for serious misbehavior, while Asian-American and American Indian parents felt that they should only use their hands.

    About the Author

    Beth Greenwood is a registered nurse and writer. She served as a columnist for the Tides Foundation's Community Clinic Voice on quality improvement and now contributes to various websites. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College and is a graduate of the California HealthCare Foundation Health Care Leadership Program.

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