Parental responsiveness affects a child's development.

How Do Cultural Differences Affect Parenting Techniques?

by Beth Greenwood

The bond between a parent and child is the earliest of the relationships a child will have throughout her life, and can affect her development, according to the Urban Child Institute. A positive and supportive attachment to a parent will help to protect the child from developing emotional and behavioral problems as she grows older. Cultural differences can affect the way a parent interacts with a child, but the UCI notes that parental responsiveness is key in any culture.

1. Responsiveness

Responsiveness, according to the UCI, is the process by which a parent observes a child, interprets her vocalizations or other behavioral signals and takes action to meet the child’s needs. To be responsive, the parent should respond promptly, be receptive to the child’s behavior and respond in a way that is appropriate to the child’s needs. Responsive parenting, according to a study reported in a 2006 World Health Organization bulletin, resulted in increased social competence as well as fewer behavior problems by the time a child was 3 years old. Children who received responsive parenting also did better in school and showed evidence of a higher IQ and self-esteem.

2. Parenting Style

Parenting style can be affected by culture, and there is some indication that in some cultures, a particular style of parenting is more effective. The same parenting style is not necessarily as effective in all cultures, however, according to research at the McClelland Institute at the University of Arizona. Authoritative parenting, which is high in warmth and responsiveness but moderate in control, is effective in white American families. In first-generation Chinese families, however, the authoritarian style -- which is lower in warmth and support but higher in control -- seems to be more effective.

3. Culture and Behavior

In parent focus groups conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, parents from several different cultural backgrounds agreed on certain aspects of child behavior. African-American, American Indian, Latino, Asian and white parents all agreed that children should be obedient, polite, not interrupt and be honest, share and perform well in school. Each culture tended to emphasize certain aspects of a child’s behavior or upbringing, however. Asian and white parents valued self-control. African-American, American Indian and Latino fathers felt religion should be an important influence in their children’s lives.

4. Commonalities

Defining cultural differences in parenting can be a daunting task. Although we may speak of the Latino culture or the Asian/Pacific Islander culture, it is important to recognize that the first group has at least 50 subgroups and the second more than 60 subgroups. American Indians have more than 500 tribes and clans. The CDC notes that irrespective of culture, there are some commonalities in parenting practices. All parents agreed, for example, that misbehavior should be dealt with, and that if punishment was deemed necessary, the parent should not act from anger.

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