Parental Ethnotheories and how Parents in America Differ from Parents Everywhere Else - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 3 Old 04-10-2013, 09:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Super fascinating article about research into how different cultures parent and the differences among Western cultures in particular. Sara Harkness is a professor of human development at the University of Connecticut and what she found in her research is really interesting, especially about American parents. Nicholas Day writes:




What you notice reading these accounts is how much more intensive—how much more arousing—American parenting is. Harkness has characterized it as trying “to push stimulation to the maximum without going over the edge into dysregulation of basic state control.” This is true even if you think you’re different—that you’re not like those other parents at the playground. Culture operates at a deeper level than any individual parenting choice. In a survey Harkness and her colleagues conducted of parents in Western cultures, the last question was, “What’s the most important thing you can do for your child’s development right now?” “The American parents almost to a person said, ‘Stimulation—stimulation is what my child needs.’ Interestingly, even the attachment parents, who were very adamant about being different in a lot of ways—they still gave the same answer.” And all the parents meant a very particular sort of stimulation. The parents talked about themselves in almost curatorial terms: They’d create a setting for intellectual growth. It went almost without saying that the actual stimulation came from the toys.


Go to to read the whole article. What do you think?

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#2 of 3 Old 04-11-2013, 12:41 AM
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Very interesting. My "important thing to do for my child's development" would be to offer the comfort and security she needs. Then again I'm originally from Eastern Europe and a long time Canadian citizen now so I can see why why I may not fit the US mold wink1.gif
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#3 of 3 Old 04-11-2013, 02:00 AM
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I love this article, especially because my family is very culturally diverse and I ponder this very topic often.  The article also gives a very good explanation of how "millenials" came into existence, if you think about it.  


But our cultural values are not static and we will see a very different generation because of the financial conditions of Americans.


I was very happy to know when the article mentions how the vast majority of US parents consider stimulation to be the most important thing they could offer their children, that my answer was instead, predictability and emotional empathy.  


But then, I was very impressed to be surprised when the article actually made me realize that I DO, deep down, have a borderline unhealthy focus on proving stimulation, because deep down it's the thing I always feel like my son needs more of.  It's the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that he is being deprived of the right puzzle games with Mom.  I was so certain I had risen above (outwitted) my pesky cultural attachments, darn it!  



Additionally, the article made the point "indirectly" that my own focus on providing predictability and empathy could in fact deny my son the ability to cope with the unpredictable and self soothe.  I'm sure for many parents a lot of it has to do with trying to provide what we ourselves didn't have growing up ourselves and wind up overdoing it.  


That is why I try to make decisions consciously and not allow my fears to control the direction my parenting takes.  I think this cognitive approach is actually a strength Americans have more than other cultures and it's good for our kids.  I think it's possible to have both a cognitive approach and still follow one's instincts when needed.


Our culture does place a huge emphasis on intelligence, and we have many isolated, emotionally unintelligent behaviors and focuses nation-wide to prove it.  The majority of Americans I know are lonely, cynical, and somewhat estranged from their close family.  Most of our parents do not come to live with us when they get old, and many of us have one or more of our closest family members living out of state.


I'd be curious to know if anybody here has read the book the article's author published,  Baby Meets World?

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