Why is culture an important factor in child development?


(Arti Freeman) #1

Culture is a set of beliefs, customs and behaviors that form a part of our identity. Culture is reflected in the language we speak, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the way we parent our children. The middle years is a key developmental stage where children are forming their identities and future sense of self—culture is a big part of this.

Research shows that a strong cultural identity, and connection to cultural communities, supports optimal child development, and creates resiliency. Cultural learning creates opportunities for children to learn about themselves, and also each other—a powerful way to embed equity and inclusion as a core value in our society.

Culture informs how we parent in core ways that go beyond what we may typically think of as cultural practices like food, dress and language. One interesting example is play. Play supports child development, and there are many perspectives on play that are informed by our cultural diversity. Guofang Li describes differing cultural norms around play, including cultural concepts like the ‘play date’—an adult controlled, organized and scheduled play event, versus child initiated peer play that is unmediated by adults.

Why should we keep culture in mind when thinking about parenting?

  • To maintain awareness of how our own cultural norms influence the way we view and interact with one another around parenting issues.

  • To challenge the ways in which cultural bias could lead to negative outcomes and impacts for families.

  • To better identify ways to support children’s development through cultural learning, and cultural identity formation in our work and communities.

For more discussion on different cultural approaches to parenting check out this Ideas.Ted.Com article How cultures around the world think about parenting