When compared to Western parents, Japanese parents believe maturity comes later in life.

Cultural Differences on Child Rearing

by Damon Verial

The culture you grow up in has permanent effects on who you turn out to be. One reason for this is the idiosyncrasies of parenting habits in different cultures. As the effect of the parent on the child molds much of that child’s behavior, beliefs and worldview, so does the effect of culture mold a parent’s way of rearing her child.

Parent-Child Communication

How children and parents communicate with one another throughout the world varies widely, and not just because of language differences. Cultural differences change both the type of communication and what is actually communicated. Take lying, for example. American culture repeatedly emphasizes that lying is wrong and that children should always be truthful, especially to parents. An American child caught lying will likely suffer some sort of punishment and guilt or remorse. Not so for Chinese families. In Chinese culture, lying is a social technique that smoothens kinks in a relationship. A Chinese parent might even instruct her child to lie to her friends or teachers as a way of protecting their feelings. At the same time, these parents are teaching their children that it is OK to lie to parents, as well, provided these lies protect parents from emotional pain. Indeed, communication methods that are wrong in one culture might be acceptable in another.


Many parents take the cutoff point for adulthood for granted. In America, it is 18. In Japan, it is 20. But just as these numbers are subjective, so is the concept of adulthood. How a certain cultural group sees the divide between adult and child differs by cultural group. The 2009 Zero to Three Parenting Young Infants and Toddlers Today Survey points out some of these cultural differences. For example, African-American parents tend to see adulthood as coming considerably earlier than do parents of other cultures. African-American parents believe that their children can engage in more adult-like tasks, such as working or engaging in effective self-control, without adult supervision. On the opposite side of the spectrum is the Chinese family, which often considers individuals in their 30s to still be children if they have not yet married. These cultural differences regarding maturity mold parents in different cultures to treat their children with different levels of autonomy, respect and apprehension.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, parents of different cultures have different viewpoints on the effectiveness of different types of punishment. For example, African-American parents tend to be direct in their punishment behavior. In a sense, they have a lower threshold for what constitutes misbehavior and are more willing to immediately and directly punish their children for infractions than parents of other cultures. Caucasian and Asian parents, on the contrary, focus less on punishing the child and more on changing the situation or redirecting the child’s actions. For example, a Caucasian parent might recognize a young child who is being noisy as feeling bored instead of misbehaving; correspondingly, she might find something for her child to do instead of punishing her child for the noise made.


Just as punishment differs across culture, affection changes under a cultural lens. What parents of one culture see as affection can greatly differ from that of parents across the world. The East-West divide here is strong. Parents from the Western world tend to show their affection in the form of physical touch or verbal praise. Hugging, kissing and compliments all constitute the expression of affection in the Western world. But in the Eastern world, parents show their affection via “doing what’s best for the child.” In the eyes of a Westerner, this form of affection seems to be the very opposite: controlling behavior. But Eastern parents believe that doing what’s hard -- in other words, being strict on their children -- shows their children that they are looking out for them. Through taking care of most of the decision-making, Asian parents push their children down the right path -- a path on which children learn proper social behavior and discipline.

About the Author

Having obtained a Master of Science in psychology in East Asia, Damon Verial has been applying his knowledge to related topics since 2010. Having written professionally since 2001, he has been featured in financial publications such as SafeHaven and the McMillian Portfolio. He also runs a financial newsletter at Stock Barometer.

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