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Cross-Cultural Differences in Childrearing

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  • Pages: 4
  • Word count: 992
  • Category: Society

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Throughout my time spent here in Spain, I have found the cross-cultural similarities and differences of child-rearing practices to be an extremely interesting area of study. Comparatively the families of the American and Spanish societies have quite different methods of raising a child and introducing him or her to this world. What is and what is not socially acceptable is the only differing area when looking at any two cultures side-by-side. Certain things that are considered normal for the Spanish culture are looked at as odd from an American perspective; along with the opposite existing when the Spanish people examine American culture. The things that are taught to children living in Africa compared to those that live in America differ much more widely but still serve the same purpose. The different cultures contribute the exact same thing to each respective society in the long-run, a new productive member of each society.

How a child is raised and taught to live is a unique aspect of every culture that exists throughout the world. Rogoff states that members of each society are “prepared by both our cultural and biological heritage to use language and other cultural tools and to learn from each other.” (Orienting Concepts, P.3) Through this definition it is easy to see why child-rearing techniques are unique to each and every society. The people of any society use their own tools and their own language to teach the youth of their society what exactly it means to be part of their culture. For example, one does not see many women in the United States who are breast-feeding on the metro. This is something that is a much more private event in the United States because the people of America are less open about this daily activity. The families of Spain see it as something more open and natural and thus freely do it throughout public when their baby is hungry. This is a more obvious example of a cross-cultural difference between the two societies.

Child-rearing practices contribute to and reflect overall societal values which can be observed when examining the day-to-day life of Spain compared to America. While I have been in Spain I have found many differences that exist between the ways I was raised compared to how children are raised here in Sevilla. One difference I found interesting was the times at which younger children are still awake with their parents at night. In the United States it is nearly impossible to find a baby in a stroller out past ten at night, let alone be at a bar with their mom and dad. I have found out through my experiences here and the questions that I have asked my host family that this difference exists because that is a very traditional aspect of Spanish culture. It is normal to have children out past that time in Spain because of the societal values that are tied to eating in the Spanish culture. The American people usually eat dinner at around half past seven at night in their homes with their families. The Spanish people normally eat dinner at around ten at night and are eating outside of their homes more often with other friends of the family. I found the times that children become accustomed to eating to be one of the most interesting differences of Spanish and American child-rearing because food is one of the most culturally unique aspects to every society in the world.

The differences in child-rearing methods are seen much more clearly when looking at other different cultures and comparing them. In the film “Babies” that we watched in class the children of the African village are allowed to play with tools that American parents would never allow. The little infants are seen sitting in the dirt playing with rocks and bashing them next to their mother. An American mom would see this as dangerous and possibly harmful to their child, while the African mother only sees their child getting used to the normal tools that will later be used in life. This is yet another example of how societal values of each culture are ingrained into a child’s head throughout the beginning of their life. Another more extreme example is how the Efe of the democratic republic of Congo allow their children to use machetes safely. This is a tool that is solely associated with killing and that the American people find as having no beneficial element if they taught their children how to use it. On the other hand the Efe use this tool on a daily-basis for a variety of different reasons and find plenty of use in teaching a child how to use a machete early on in life.

Despite the very differing ways of raising a child that are used by the American, African, and Spanish people the families of each culture are producing the same productive member of each society. The ways of attaining this member of society vary widely, but what difference should that make. I consider myself no better than anyone who belongs to any of the other cultures I have discussed. I am just different in what I find socially acceptable, just like how my ways are looked at as different by someone who belongs to another culture. The ways of child-rearing are some of the most culturally bound aspects of a group of people that can be examined. People all over the world have different methods of raising and producing a beneficial member of society, but despite the differences they all produce the same thing. In order to get an accurate understanding of why the methods differ, one must understand the meaning for the difference and how it fits into context. No way of raising a child is “better” or “worse” than another; they all serve the same purpose and exist to produce the same productive member of each society.

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