What is Child Rearing?
The term child rearing refers to the process used to bring up a child from birth through adulthood. How child rearing is done can depend greatly on cultural influences and how parents make decisions on such complex issues as whether the mother should work and the proper types of discipline for a child.
There is no one “right way” to raise a child. Around the world, parents successfully raise independent and happy children using a wide variety of approaches. Study after study has shown that parental care and involvement, more than any one parenting strategy, is the key to successful child rearing.
Studying these issues is part of health and human services degree programs, especially those centered around challenges that face families.
Global Differences in Child Rearing
There is not a guidebook handed out to parents once they have a child. Instead, children are raised in very different ways depending on what part of the world they live in.
- In Norway, childhood is strongly institutionalized, with kids entering state-sponsored daycare at the age of one.
- In Japan, children are independent early in childhood, with kids as young as six getting themselves to school and running errands, even in Tokyo. In Japanese society, people expect other adults to watch out for and protect children.
- In Scandinavian countries, there is an emphasis on “friluftsliv,” or open-air living. This can be seen in the practice of letting children nap outside, even in wintertime.
- Many kids in China and Vietnam are potty trained, using a whistle, starting when they are just a few months old
- In the United Kingdom, it’s far more common than in the U.S, for kids to take a gap year between high school and college. Also, kids in Finland typically rank high on education tests but don’t start school until they are seven
- Italian children often drink wine at dinner time, right along with the adults.
These varieties show that when it comes to child rearing, a lot depends on location and culture.
Parenting in the United States
In Parenting Around the World, the authors cite the study by Sara Harkness, a professor of human development at the University of Connecticut. A variety of parenting issues were studied in the United States. One common theme was that parents in the U.S. tend to place a great deal of stock in early age cognition.
American parents are more likely to focus on the importance of maintaining high levels of mental arousal and activity. Typically, they focus on this more than parents in other countries.
A Pew Research Center study found that parents in America, across all parts of the country, tend to emphasize the following traits when teaching their children life skills.
- Hard work
- Helping others
- Good Manners
While the importance of these areas fluctuates based on issues such as the size of the family or whether the mother is married or single, these traits are almost universally listed by American parents.
Parenting in the United States
In the Sarah Harkness study, it’s clear that values such as independence and hard work rank high for U.S. parents, who tend to emphasize individualistic traits rather than collectivist traits.
In the article, Culturally-Based Differences In Child Rearing Practices, communication expert Marcia Carteret wrote that “In study after study, cultural anthropologists have found that the overriding goal of American parents is to make a child independent and self-reliant. Babies are bundles of potential and a good parent is one who can uncover the latent abilities and talents in their child, encourage the good while discouraging the bad.”
American parents tend to focus on raising children with more emphasis on personal freedom and becoming more materially successful than themselves.
On the other hand, the norm in most places around the globe is to raise children with collectivist ideals such as obedience, calmness, politeness, and respect toward others. This approach emphasizes feeling responsible for their behavior and avoiding shame for the child, their family and their community.
These differences in approaches to child reading provide fascinating insights into why people from the U.S. behave differently than those from other parts of the world – both for good and ill. Both individual and collectivist cultures have their own ideas on what is meant by “success” when raising a child. It’s those differences that can lead to culture clashes. Success is measured in many ways, including:
- Financial stability
- Family togetherness
- Strong religious faith
- The passing down of cultural traditions
Studying these differences in parenting styles throughout the US and the world give students a better understanding of cultures and families and how cultural differences affect child rearing in different parts of the world.
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