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CHAPTER 8 Ecocultural Niches of MicicIle Childhood: A Cross 'Cultural Perspective Thomas S. Weisner Imagine a satellite that could randomly sample the culture areas of the world. This imaginary satellite can focus on households with children ages 6-12 and can take audio and video recordings of their daily routines. The satellite can record with whom children associate; how far they venture from home; what work they do at what ages; the nature and difficulty of the tasks; with whom they work and how that work is shared; and the characteristics of the play group, household, and domestic group surrounding them. From the recordings we can assess the sources of child stimulation; how children explore the settings within their community; and with whom they talk and their topics of discourse and interaction. Children and adults in the sample communities could interpret the recordings and add to our understanding of settings and environments by bringing their subjective meanings to our interpretations. Together, the objective and subjective data would provide a systematic assessment of the social ecologies of childhood and development around the world. For any group of children we would be able to define their ecocultural niche (Super and Harkness, 1982~. The term ecocultural niche defines what Bronfenbrenner (1979) called the ecology of child development, going back to the tradition of Barker and Wright ~ 1954~. In comparative and cross-cultural studies (e.g., Berry, 1979:121-125; Konner, 1977; LeVine, 1977; OgLu, 1981; Super and Hark- ness, 1980; B. Whiting and ]. Whiting, 1975; ]. Whiting and B. Whiting, 1978; and others), the ecocultural niche describes the sociocultural envi 335
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336 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD ronment surrounding the child and family. The term niche implies that this context has evolved through time and has adapted to the constraints imposed by the subsistence base, the climate, and the political economy of the region. The term niche connotes a somewhat different view of the environment than is implied by the proximal home reaming environment or the social structure, although it includes these. Parents, children, and families adapt to a niche and shape it to some extent as well. The niche includes the features of the environment, as conventionally defined, and also the scripts, plans, and intentions of the actors. Thus, the ecocultural niche includes variables inside as well as outside the person. Its most important elements are the relationships between participants in organized behavior settings or activity units actors with goals and intentions in a context. The study of the niches of childhood, then, includes the study of the actions, motivations, and goals or purposes shaped by those niches. As Super and Harkness ~1982) emphasized, these contexts, or scaffolds, for children's development change over time, just as individuals change and develop. Thus, the goals of a ctevetopmentat analysis include not only the study of individual and group . ~. ~ _ 1 . 1 ~ . . ~ 1 differences but also the study ot changes in the scaffolding surrounding children over time. Many features of the niche have been shown to affect children directly, or indirectly through the child's participation in the family or community. Whiting et al. (in press) developed an inventory of cultural features that influence child development. Their list, which appears below, is derived from cross-cultural as well as American studies and so includes some domains and activities that are not relevant to American children. The domains themselves, however the work cycle, health status, children's work and chores-probably represent pancultural features that affect all children: . ~ . . . . _ 1. The characteristics of the subsistence work cycle and the economic and technological system that produces it, including wage work, tending crops or animals, distance from the home, migration, etc. 2. The health status and demographic characteristics of the community, including mortality risks, availability of health care, birth control, family size, etc. 3. Overall community safety other than health and mortality, such as dangers from motor vehicles, intra- and intercommunity violence and war- fare, etc. 4. The division of labor by age and sex and perhaps other criteria like caste or race in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, including the rel- ative importance of various activities for subsistence and prestige. 5. The work that children are expected to do beginning as a toddler through adolescence.
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ECOCULTURAL NICHES OF MIDDLE CHILDHOOD 337 6. Child-rearing and chip care tasks in particular, including the personnel available and used for caretaking. 7. The role of the father arm older siblings in child care as a special issue of nonmatemal child care. 8. The composition of children's play groups by age, sex, and kinship category (siblings, cousins, relatives, and nonrelatives). 9. The autonomy, independence, and role of women in the community. 10. Institutionalized women's support groups, both formal and informal, such as work groups, church clubs, mutual aid societies, etc. 11. Various sources of child stimulation; more generally, the available sources of cultural influence on children from both literate and oral sources, including the child's contact with the media, the outside world, and toys. 12. Parental sources of information concerning child health, nutrition, new methods of subsistence activities, and new methods of child care; the avail' ability of novel or contrastive beliefs about childhood in the community. 13. Measures of community heterogeneity and change, including the presence of subethnic communities, bilingualism, subcastes, social~ciass differences and social solidarity; the role of minorities; group oppression and lack of community commitment among some subgroups; information on migration; and the number of generations that families have lived in the community. Ecocultural variables like these have been developed from some basic ideas about how the econiche has been formed; they are influenced by their functions for community adaptation and by the overall level of cultural complexity. The domains in this list, for example, can be grouped into five clusters on the basis of how they help children and families to adapt and survive. One cluster influences health and mortality (health and community de- mography, safety, defense and protection). Another affects provision of food and shelter (the subsistence work cycle, chores). Another influences the personnel likely to be around children and what those people are likely to be doing (daily routines, division of labor, child care system, play groups). A fourth focuses more specifically on the role of women and mothers in the community as the primary responsible caretakers (support, women's status, fathers' and siblings' roles). A fifth assesses cultural altematives available in the community (heterogeneity, outside influence and information). Cultural complexity is another widely used summary dimension that in- fluences econiche constraints and opportunities. Cultural complexity in- cludes an extensive cash economy, technological specialization, permanent urban settlement pattems, a centralized political and legal system, a priest- hood and other specialized religious roles, literacy, hierarchical status dis- tinctions (such as a caste organization or social classes), and a diversity of
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338 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD altemative cultural models in the community (such as in bicultural or mul- tilingual settings) (Murdock and Provost, 1981~. Complexity does not nec- essarily imply a more elaborate, rituaVsymbolic world, nor an easier, more effort-free or stress-free life; but the size of the population and the scale of . . . . aCtlVltleS IS greater. American children, of course, grow up in one of the most complex cultures in the world, in this sense of hierarchy, stratification, technology, and altemative choices available. The score for an American family on nearly every niche feature is affected by that fact. Complex environments appear to promote increased nonaffiliative, individual achievement striving in chil- dren's social behavior and in parental goals (Gallimore, 1981~; more per- sonalized competition between children (Seymour, 1981~; more egoistic and dominant social behaviors in children (B. Whiting and J. Whiting, 1975~; lower rates of nurturant and prosocial behaviors, which are emphasized later in childhood (B. Whiting and J. Whiting, 19751; less sex-role segregation in family roles; a less shared-function, more specialized family role system; a more democratic family id. Whiting and B. Whiting, 1975~; and a general decline in the use of nonparental care by kin, especially sibling caretaking (Weisner and Gallimore, 1977~. Adaptation and complexity are also related to the ability to accumulate and store food and other resources for family use. In modem, complex societies, year-Ion", stable availability of food and many other resources is taken for granted, although the ability of families to purchase these resources is problematic. In much of the world, however, families face regular un- certainty in this matter. For example, early and strict responsibility and compliance training and high peer affiliation orientation appear more fre- quently as socialization goals and as child-rearing practices in societies that emphasize the accumulation of resources (Barry et al., 1959~. Berry (1976) contrasted "loose" societies (Iow accumulation, often based on a hunting economy, high mobility, dispersed settlement pattems, unstratified, and egalitarian) with "tight" ones (high accumulation, dense settlement, strat- ified, etc. ). He suggested that psychological differentiation and field inde- pendence characterize low food accumulating, low-density, migratory peoples. Regardless of the different ways to generate and cluster the variables that make up the niche description, certain dimensions recur as powerful eco- cultural determinants of child development: ( 1 ) the personnel available in the family which individuals, ages, sexes, kin; (~) the goal requirements, or tasks, to be done, which provide the reasons for children and others to be there; and (3) the cultural scripts, plans, and schemata that give meaning, create people's motivation, and give cues to intentions and purposes. Many studies in developmental psychology use home reaming environ- ment or microsystem as the unit of analysis to study the effects of niche
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ECOCULTURAL NICHES OF MIDDLE CHILDHOOD 339 influences. The ecocultural niche includes the proximal home reaming en' vironment but is broader. The ecocultural niche helps to account for the existence of a particular home reaming environment in the first place. It accounts for the limited child caretaking personnel available to assist Amer- ican parents, for instance. It explains why the timing of bedtime and meals is so problematic for many American families. It identifies the source of the varying cultural ideas that appear in popular books on child stimulation or on television (Beckman, 1977; Wertz and Wertz, 1977~. The immediate home environment, then, is a result of the interaction between family goals and ideals, child characteristics, and constraints and opportunities within the ecocultural niche. Developmental research already uses econiche measures, such as social class or socioeconomic level, level of formal education, race, ethnicity, religion. These kinds of measures lump together many disparate features of the niche, drawn from different domains and functions, into a single pack' aged variable (B. Whiting, 1976~. Econiche variables decompose global descriptors like socioeconomic level into a much more complex set of mea' surest In addition, measures derived from ecocultural niche domains are more likely to reveal the mechanisms by which class or education produce their effects on children. One reason for this is that the niche features outlined here each have specific links to the daily routine of the child and the family. The daily routine of a child includes all the varied activity settings, with their personnel, cultural scripts, and plans and tasks, that the child experiences (Cole, 1981; B. Whiting, 19801. The use of the ecocultural niche mode! depends on an analysis of these activity settings, for they are the immediate situational circumstances that provide the social scaffold for assisting children to think, speak, and act (see Fischer and Bullock, in this volume). These scaffolds have their own developmental course in every culture. The developmental course of the individual is paralleled by the development of familial scripts and activity settings. These settings change with mature ation, just as the child is changing. Children's behavior between 6 and 12 results from the interplay between the child's development, on one hand, and the development of a culture's activity settings or scaffolds, on the other (see Super and Harkness, 1982~. Thus, the ecocultural mode} has a theo- retical and a comparative implication. For theory, research is needed on the development of activity settings that will parallel studies of individual dif' ferences in children's development. For comparative research, the range of activity settings available for American children must be viewed in the context of the range of such settings for children around the world. Child development studies done in Westem cultures rarely compare the data collected to data from other cultures around the world. Weisner et al.
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340 DEVELOPMENT DURING MII:)DLE CHILDHOOD ( 1983) studied American parents who were attempting to be more "natural" and emotionally expressive in child-rearing practices with their infants and young children or who were voluntarily poor and emphasized loose, flexible discipline and compliance patterns (Weisner, 1982a). Although pronatural and voluntarily poor parents did differ in a number of child care practices from a comparison group, interactional styles often did not. More impor- tantly, the practices on which innovative families differed (such as more frequent breastfeeding, later weaning, or sleeping with the child) did not cliffer very much when compared to the range of such practices around the world. Thus American parents who weaned "late" did so by the time the child was 18 months; however, most cultures and mothers around the world do not even begin the weaning process until after age 18 months. Although strictness of discipline and the extent of immediate compliance to parental requests varied in the American sample, the cross-cultural evi- dence indicates that our culture is unusually flexible and permits children more autonomy and latitude in negotiations with parents over compliance than do most cultures around the world (Minturn and Lambert, 1964; Lam- bert et al., 1979~. The absolute amount of delayed compliance or negotiated requests is high in American samples, compared with comparable samples from Africa, for instance (Weisner, 1979~. Many statistically significant differences between Western samples may be of a similar character: they may produce only very small substantive differences in behavior, which are of small magnitude, with outcomes that are not sustained for very long. One powerful reason may be the fact that on a pancultural scale the magnitudes of the intracultural differences are not! very large. The only way to test this would be to systematically and routinely compare developmental data collected within our own niche, with data collected from a wide range of econiches and cultures around the world. Such a practice would, ~ expect, have the same importance in interpreting developmental data as the currently routine expectation in scientific studies of reporting test and instrument norms or statistical variance within a sample. The influence of the niche is subject to empirical test, as are features of the child or parents, such as gender, age, and temperament. This point is important to emphasize because culture is so often treated in just the opposite way as an untested, packaged variable. The ecocultural niche approach must not assume what is often exactly what needs to be proven: that cultural factors indeed have important effects. Culture must be used as a set of variables like others whose specific character and effects can be measured and tested. The same point is true for determining which aspects of the econiche have the strongest effect ethnic or cultural membership itself or subsistence
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ECOCULTUR'4L NICHES OF MIDDLE CHILDHOOD 341 and environmental constraints. For instance, Ecigerton ~197 ~ ~ systematically tested values and personality characteristics in adults from four tribal cultures in East Africa. Within each culture, some individuals lived primarily as pastoralists and others as horticulturalists. Edgerton was thus able to compare the effects of cultural membership versus subsistence adaptation pastoral or horticultural for each of eight sample groups (four cultures x two subsistence modes). Results showed that both cultural group membership and subsistence modes differentiated between clependent variables in his study. Pastoralists were more concerned with displays of affection, direct aggression, divination, and independence than were farmers. Farmers em- phasized disrespect for authority and favored conflict avoidance, indirect aggression, emotional constraint, and other values, compared with pastor- alists. Tribal membership, however, was the best overall predictor of these sample differences, and subsistence mode was next best. In brief, the ecocultural niche defines the contexts for development; these contexts represent evolved, adapted family responses to opportunities and constraints of the environment; the activity settings that result are the measurable, visible features that can influence children and families. The study of child development, then, should include the study of the relation- ships between the activity settings provided for children within the niche, on one hand, and the maturational uniformities and individual differences children and parents bring to these activity settings, on the other. Basic research on the 6-12 age period should pursue new knowledge regarding the development and influence of activity settings of children at these ages and study a far broader range of such settings in American society and around the world. Finally, ~ believe that high-quality description of the lives of children in other cultural settings is in and of itself of basic scientific value in providing a mirror for ourselves. Lambert (1971:61) commented on the intrinsically valuable character of cross-cultural data its ability to awaken us to new altematives: Since no one culture has managed to achieve a monopoly of all the "good" or "bad" conditions for parent~child relations, then we are going to be delighted as we travel about the world. We are always going to find some facet of human personality or personality organization which glows with a serene excellence that we have never met before. And lying below the fact of that fresh, though partial and perhaps even fleeting, excellence, is new knowledge about how to make some future generation (and its parents) better, more happy, or more free. Although comparative work is widely accepted in principle or as a pro- grammatic need, it is not being done. LeVine (1980) reviewed every article and research note published over a 5-year period in four developmental
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342 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD joumals and six anthropology journals. These represented the ten major joumals in the two disciplines. Only 9.3 percent of the articles in the developmental joumals included any data on subcultural variations in the United States, Europe, Israel, or anywhere else (171 of the 1,843 articles). Of these 171, 75 percent reported data from other Westem industrial so- cieties, leaving only 42 articles (2.3 percent of the total) with any data from Latin America, Asia, or Oceania. Similarly, the six anthropology journals published 911 articles during this 5-year period, of which only 70 (7.7 percent) gave any consideration to child care or development. The situation is even worse than this implies, since one of the anthropology joumals, Ethos, by itself published almost one-third of all the articles on children in the anthropology articles reviewed. The regions of the world are also very unevenly represented; Latin America, for example, is far more frequently mentioned than other parts of the world. WESTERN AND NON-WESTERN CULTURES In the discussion of ecocultural niches of middle childhood in this chapter, American children ages 6-12 are often lumped with Westem children or those living in complex societies. This is a gross oversimplification and of course does not mean that there are not large differences in the experience of children across Westem societies. Similarly, children in non-Westem cultures are often lumped together to contrast with American children. This is an even grosser oversimplification, since the range of cultures is even greater within this category. References to non-Westem societies should be understood as referring primarily to middIe-range horticultural and simple agricultural societies, unless otherwise noted. Most examples are drawn from Polynesia (Tahiti, Hawaii) and sub-Saharan Africa (East Africa, Ghana, Botswana). It is not possible or appropriate to present an ethnographic overview of the patterns of child care during the 6-12 age period around the world. The emphasis on broad, cross-cultural contrasts in this chapter is not intended to homogenize the rest of the world, nor to imply that there are not enormous social-cIass, racial, and ethnic differences in Westem societies, nor to suggest that non-Westem societies are uniform. To the contrary, the point is to search for the niche and activity settings that influence child development and that are the result of just such class and ethnic differences. The chapters in this volume reflect many of the central themes of middle childhood: caretaking pattems, schooling, health, cognition, and self-un- derstanding. Cross-cultural perspectives are especially important in the study of cultural conceptions of the person and the self; children's own theories
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- - ECOCULTURAL NICHES OF MIDDLE CHILDHOOD 343 of their development and roles; the differing structures for child caretaking during this period, particularly nonparental care; the socialization of appro- priate emotional expression; the influence of deviance and psychopathology in middle childhood; the influence of schooling and literacy; the effects of urbanization and modemization; sex-role and gender-identity development; the transition to adolescence; and others. ~ have selected four of these themes to illustrate a comparative niche approach: the structure of caretaking; de- velopment of the self; troublesomeness in children; and schooling effects. Each of these domains is covered in the next four sections, followed by a discussion of methods. A goal of this volume is to suggest areas for new basic research. The topics covered in this chapter are those that are not already covered in other cross- cultural reviews, such as the Handbook of Cross-Cultural Human Development (Munroe et al., 19811; that do not as yet have extensive comparative research but look promising; that appear to be important during the 6-12 age period; and that are emphasized in the other chapters in this volume. PATTERNS OF CARETAKING OF CHILDREN A central issue in American families with children ages 6-12 is the gradual shift in direct control of the child's behavior and activity settings from parents to the world of the school and peers. Medrich et al. ( 1982:102-103) reported that parents in Oakland, California, fee! they need to devote less of their time to either direct physical care or nonphysical care of their children during this period. The papers by Maccoby and Markus and Nurius in this volume emphasize that an important general developmental''task for Amer- ican children in this period of life is to accomplish a gradual change in processes of control and regulation. Children appear to gradually move from coregulated activities to self-regulated ones. Parents retain overall managerial influence, but children are increasingly capable of self-regulation of their activities for long periods of the day. American parents encourage individ- uation and self-control during this period but also attempt to negotiate with children and withhold resources in order to retain overall managerial control within the family. The developmental task or agenda that faces parents and children in many non-Western cultures is related to but different in many ways from the American one of individuation and separation from the parent as an exclusive controller. Rather, the task involves children gradually moving from under the responsibility of older children and other nonparental members of the household (e.g., grandparents or aunts) to becoming a responsible caretaker, in charge of younger siblings and cousins. Children ages 6-12 take on
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344 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD increasingly responsible family roles, including those relating to child care. Parents' roles include the managerial and disciplinary ones familiar in Amer- ican families, but child care is more diffused and shared. This caretaking pattern has as its goal to produce an interdependent, responsible child, rather than an independent, self-directed, highly individuated child. Many cultures also share the belief that between age 5 and age 7 children begin to acquire reason or sense, the ability to understand cultural rules and to carry out directions. Rogoffet al. (1975), Super (1981), and I. Whiting and B. Whiting (1960) identified this age period from cross-cultural samples, and NerIove et al. (1974) did so with data from Guatemala. NerIove et al. identified two natural indicators of cognitive skill that develop before or during this period, which are both important in shared child management activities: self-managed sequencing of activity and voluntary social activities. Self-managed sequencing refers to the child's ability to follow a precise sequence or series of acts autonomously e.g., washing clothes, which en- tails gathering up a basket, clothes, and soap, putting the clothes in a basket, going to water or the river, etc. These tasks require, in correct order, "a scanning of the mode! and mapping of that model onto altematives, ret membering what one had already tried and how well it fit" (NerIove et al., 1974:287~. Voluntary social activities involve self-directed, shared activity with others, which assumes a shared goal and rule understandings. For [anguage-related voluntary social activities, reaming "to name, recognize, and verbally relate functions or attributes of objects" to others (p. 287) is crucial, including reaming kinship rules and cultural and family standards. Voluntary social activities thus include understanding and storing multiple roles and social scripts as well as the ability to lead and direct them. Sibling caretaking exemplifies the application of both of these skills to an important family Unction. Rogoff et al. (1980) extended their cross-cultural work to the 8-10 age period, suggesting that children appear to be developing skills at performing more complex tasks, which require more elaborate understanding of context- appropriate behaviors and more complex understanding of causality and intent which increase the child's ability to consolidate and integrate the separately acquired skills reamed in the 5-7 transition period. Effective performance of child care, as a part of the competencies needed to perform domestic chores and even manage the domestic routine, requires a minimum level of both these kinds of skills in childhood, and in turn domestic duties help train children in more general skills. Thus the age of greatest involvement in and responsibility for shared child and domestic task management corresponds to the 6-12 developmental period, when these social and cognitive skills become available to children.
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ECOCULTURAL NICHES OF MIDDLE CHILDHOOD 345 The contrasts between coregulation and self-regulation and between in- terdependence and independence are certainly expressed as cultural goals and emphasized in parental talk and metaphor. The degree to which chil- ciren's and parents' behavior in fact reflects these metaphors seems to vary widely. The role of socialization and intemalized behavioral tendencies, in addition to differences in activity settings as influences on metaphor and behavior, needs new research. There is a sense in which all children are interdependent within their family and community and a sense in which autonomous self-regulation is more of a Westem cultural myth than a be- havioral reality. The differences, however, between Westem and non-West- em children in nurturance, prosocial responsibility, and affiliative orientations have been well established (e.g., B. Whiting and J. Whiting, 19751. Sibling Caretaking Barry and Paxson (1971) surveyed 186 societies in the cross-cultural sam- ple of the Human Relations Area Files and concluded that mothers were considerably less frequently the primary caretaker of children than either siblings, older children, or female adults other than the mother. Thus, children ages 6- 12 in most of the non-Westem world continue what already has been a common experience for them earlier in life: They participate in peer and sibling caretaking systems and are not usually under the direct, personal care and supervision of their mothers. Gallimore et al. (1974), Leiderman and Leiderman (1973; 1977), Levy (1973), Mead (1961), Mintum and Lambert (1964), Weisner and Gallimore (1977), B. Whiting andJ. Whiting (1975), anal. Whiting and B. Whiting (1973) have all recorded comparative data and developed theories about sibling care. Sibling care is associated with the following ecocultural con- ditions: horticultural, pastoral, and simpler agricultural societies in which the family workload is high; mothers are responsible for work outside the home; residence patterns establish sets of neighboring, extended family groups with children available for shared care; and shared work roles and task allocations within families promote joint care of younger children. Shared functioning is a useful term for describing such flexible, nonexclusive family work roles and child care responsibilities (Gallimore et al., 19741. Children ages 6-12 are cared for by older children; then, through participation in pivot roles (Levy, 1973), they move to caretaking supervision of still younger children. Mothers' roles are as indirect managers of the sibling and family group-assigning duties, overseeing the senior sibling caretaker, jointly doing chores and activities with children, providing discipline and occasional in- struction, or simply modeling correct behavior.
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ECOCULTURAL NICHES OF MIDDLE CHILDHOOD 359 school skills; if the child has behavior problems, provide counseling or special medical help. There seem to be many aspects of behaviors inside and outside school that do worry parents of children ages 6-12. Achenbach and Edel- brock (1981) identified ll8 such behavior problems and 20 social compe- tence items in their Child Behavior Checklist. Items ranged from truancy to cannot concentrate; refuses to talk; nervous; disobedient at home; feels unloved; and many others. Thus, many American children ages 6-12 have difficulties adjusting to outside institutions; they are the target of individually focused treatments; and there seem to be many areas of children's behavior during this period that are potentially troublesome. The non-Westem contrasts to the American child's experience provide a final example of the potential usefulness of ecocultural and comparative research for the study of children ages 6-12. It seems to be the case that: ( 1 ) children ages 6-12 in many non-Western settings are integrated smoothly (perhaps a better description is, without question) into the world of work, schooling, and community life outside the home; (2) a widely used mode for dealing with troublesomeness in children when it does occur is to change the child's family situation or activity setting rather than to focus on trying to change the individual child; and (3) compared with the large number of reported American parental concerns about their children, there are far fewer such troublesome behaviors either reported or observed in non-West- em studies of children ages 6-12. That is, children do not appear to be nearly as troublesome and/or their parents report far fewer behavioral troubles than do American parents and school or medical personnel. Unfortunately, there has been very little basic research done in cross- cultural samples on the naturally occurring behavioral problems that appear in children ages 6-12 (see Edgerton, 1976~. Similarly, it is startling to discover that there is no systematic account in the comparative literature- of which ~ am aware that compares cross-cultural treatments of children who are identified as troubled in some way. The suggestion that there is relatively less troublesome behavior among children ages 6-12 in non-West- em societies depends in part on the negative evidence that little is reported in the available literature. Some of the problems reported for American children depend on what definition the culture provides for a particular behavior pattern e.g., what do parents mean by poor peer relations? Others depend on cultural concep- tions of what a child is capable of or what is perceived as normal for this period e.g., do Tahitian parents fee! that children between 6 and 12 have a sense of personal, autonomous self-worth? Some Western-defined problems refer to public institutions, such as schools, courts, or welfare agencies, that do not exist in other societies. It is not known, however, which of these or
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360 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CH1LDH~D other differences in how troublesomeness may be reported by parents pro- duces differing patterns of behavioral problems in children ages 6-12. Basic comparative research is needed on what parents in other ecocultural envi- ronments report in the way of troubles for children in this period. Were we able to replicate Achenbach and Edelbrock's study (1981) in a large, cross- cultural sample, what descriptors of children's troubles would appear' Some items might appear on nearly all lists, some on only one or two, and some in one cluster of societies but not other clusters. In this way, we could begin to disentangle which behavioral problems appear to have some universal recognition and which do not. The appearance of troublesomeness in children's behavior depends in part on whether parents fee} that continuation of the behavior would cause the child to be unable to adapt or survive in his or her niche in the future. The widespread practice of sending children away to other kin or fostering them during the 6-12 age period is sometimes intended to change the child's environment in hopes that the child's troublesomeness will decrease. Al- though, again, empirical studies are needed, it seems that in general, treat- ments like sending a child to other kin are usually effective. The 6-12 age period seems to have relatively few children acting out or seriously troubling families, although covert tensions and difficulties with children are certainly present, as is the possibility of pathology (see Korbin, 1981~. Another reason for this apparently lower incidence of problems is the strong, generalized expectable climate of compliance in non-Westem fam- ilies described earlier in this chapter. Deference to adults is expected, as is submission to their requests and commands. Children ages 6-12 participate in training for [earned helpfulness expectations to act in a responsible and prosocial manner to others. It is possible that expectable compliance in the home and learned helpfulness among children of these ages may inoculate them against many of the behavior problems described in American parents' reports. Werner and Smith (1982) found that ecological (particularly house- hold personnel) features were most important in accounting for children's troubles during middle childhood in their longitudinal study of the children of Kauai; and they also found that nonmatemal and sibling caretaking played an important role in providing supports for resilient children those children who were at earlier risk, but without troublesome outcomes. Every one of these suggestions regarding children's relatively infrequent troublesomeness in non-Westem ecocultural contexts needs testing. None has been systematically studied at the present time. Both direct behavioral observation of children and the collection of parents' folk conceptions of troubles need to be obtained. The ecocultural niche differences that may -reduce troublesomeness should be studied at the same time as the data on
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ECOCULTURAL NICHES OF MIDDLE CHILDHOOD 361 children's problems and troubles are gathered. The transitions from early childhood into middle childhood and from middle childhood into adoles- cence are certainly not necessarily smooth, and these boundary points also need new, comparative research. SCHOOLING AND LITERACY Each cohort of children ages 6-12 over the past two generations, as well as the one to come, is participating in a transformation unique in the history of our species: the spread of formal schooling and literacy around the world. The United States has nearly universal school attendance of children ages 6-12 and has one of the highest rates of literacy in the world; however, formal school attendance is far from universal in much of the world. Indeed, most nations are still in the transition to widespread literacy. Rogoff (1981) recently published a comprehensive review of the rela- tionship between schooling and the development of cognitive skills, such as perception, memory, classification and concept development, logical problem solving, and Piagetian tasks. When Western task and testing paradigms and materials are used, schooled subjects generally do better on such tests than nonschooled subjects. But Rogoff questioned this research strategy and pat- tern of results on many grounds and pointed out that the natural experiment created by different formal schooling in different societies has not begun to be exploited by basic researchers. First, research is needed to investigate the many threats to the general- izability of school-nonschoo! samples. For instance, parents "who allow or encourage their children to go to school may be wealthier, hew more modern attitudes, or hold different aspirations for their children than parents who do not" (Rogoff, 1981:267~. Children who are already better on skills assessed by Westem tests may have been selected by their parents to attend school. Schooled children may be more familiar with the test materials, testing situations, and the language in which the test is administered than non- schooled children. Tests given in school or based on school-related skills often do not appear to generalize to contexts outside the classroom in any event. Thus the differences between schooled and nonschooled subjects may be, in a variety of ways, an artifact of the tests, selection of children for school attendance, or the context-specificity of school cognitive abilities. A more telling research need and critique of existing research is the "lack of empirical research studying the mechanism for schooling's presumed ef- fect" (Rogoff, 1981:276~. Rogoff suggested four specific aspects of school experience that might be tested for in trying to discover mechanisms un- derlying the schooling effect (p. 286~:
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362 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD (a) Schooling's emphasis on searching for general rules; (b) the use of verbal instruction out of context from everyday activities; (c) the teaching of specific skills in school, such as memory strategies, taxonomic categorization, and the treatment of"puzzles" in which the answer is to be derived from information in the problem; and specifically (d) literacy, which may allow the examination of statements for consistency or may simply teach some specific cognitive skills. Scribner and Cole (1981) questioned the generality of literacy effects in particular, and school effects more generally. Their Liberian study of un- schooled but literate Vai literate in an indigenous Liberian Vai script learned in the home indicates specific transfer effects for specific skills but not a generalized cognitive restructuring traceable either to literacy alone or to schooling. The challenges for new basic research in this area are of enormous im- portance. It is only through comparative work with children with different literacy experiences and different formal school experiences that effects of education can be distinguished from maturational and other age-related developmental differences. Educational comparisons (Epps and Smith, in this volume) and cognitive comparisons (Fischer and Bullock, in this vol- ume) between children ages 6-12 need cross-national studies in order to separate the effects of Western mass education and literacy from other in- fluences on development. Literacy and school skills, in this view, are specific cultural tools, aiding the attainment of localized skills reamed in a context in which such skills are needed and valued (see NerIove and Snipper, 1981~. What of other new Western cultural tools looming on the horizon, which go beyond books and literacy, such as the computer? What contextually specific, culturally lo- calized cognitive skills and changes in social-behavioral styles may appear as this new cultural too! continues to spread during the next generation? SOME COMMENTS ON METHODS The well-trained developmentalist prepared to study children ages 6-12 is a scholar with a diverse set of research skills packed into a traveling backpack. Depending on the circumstances, this researcher can do partic- ipant observation) various kinds of informant interviewing; formal controlled observation, using time and event sampling; experimental manipulations; tests and other kinds of structured tasks; and combinations of these as needed. The location of research work a school, a middle-cIass suburb in Chicago, a village in Western Kenya should not by itself determine the methods to be used. Nor should the substantive problem determine the methods. The study of achievement in children, for example, should never be limited to just a single method (Gallimore, 1981~.
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ECOCULTURAL NICHES OF MIDDLE CHILDHOOD 363 Comparative research in human development has used a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods since Tylor If. Whiting and B. Whiting, 1960~. Qualitative, naturalistic research methods have developed a fairly substantial literature with recognized procedures to validate or compare research using these methods (Agar, 1980;Johnson, 1978; LeVine et al., 1980; Pelto and Pelto, 1978; SpradIey, 1979; Thomas, 1976~. Current research on field- work methods includes: role management in field situations; techniques for notetaking; methods for summarizing and coding field notes; systematic observation of behavior; quantification of field observations; styles and pro- cedures for writing up and presenting ethnographic materials; techniques for informant interviewing; and techniques for analysis and interpretation of texts. Naturalistic field methods will continue to be important in cross- cultural research. The basic research need is for more systematic attention to these procedures. The decision rules for which methods to use, under which circumstances, are particularly in need of attention. Better specification of the units for analysis would assist cross-cultural and Westem work alike. In this chapter, for instance, ~ have suggested the activity unit (Cole, 1981) or behavior setting (B. Whiting, 1980) as the link between the ecocultural niche variables and individual-level data typical of Westem studies. The activity unit consists of an individual, engaged in goal-directed activities, under the constraints of his or her localized niche. Events in such activity settings or units are regulated by others in the setting, by what the actor brings to the situation, and by the environmental cir- cumstances. ~ believe that methods need to be developed that take the activity unit as the unit of analysis not the individual actor alone, nor the thought or language of that actor, nor the localized environment. The goal for new basic research should be the development of methods suitable to a comparative theory of activity units. CONCLUSION The topics selected for more extended discussion in this chapter (the caretaking roles of children ages 6-12 and children's participation in work for the family; the public and nonindividuaiistic nature of the self; the possibly reduced troublesomeness of children ages 6-12 in non-Western cultures; and literacy and schooling) are included because each of these issues is an important developmental issue for American children ages 6- 12. These certainly do not exhaust the important topics that need new basic research using an ecocultural and comparative approach. Additional topics include, at least, the socialization of emotions and affect; beliefs about temperamental differences of children held by parents in other societies; the effects of urbanization and modemization on children ages 6-12; the com
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364 DEVELOPMENT DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD parative phenomenology of childhood that is, children's own theories of development and accounts of their own behavior; and sex role and gender training. Reviews of these and other topics appear in several recent books (Levine and Shweder, no date; Munroe et al., 1981; Munroe and Munroe, 1975; Triandis and Lambert, 1980; Werner 1979~. Finally, an ecocultural perspective shows not only the marvelous diversity of children's environments in cultures around the world but also how vul- nerable children are to assaults on their safety and subsistence base. Children participate in a world economy; they can be exploited by governments, capitalists, socialists, and terrorists jUst as adults can. They suffer the con- sequences of insecticide poisoning, poor food distribution, distorted govem- ment, and social policies favoring special interests (see Davis, 1977~. The social processes that drive the increasing urbanization, modernization, and exploitation of the weak and the poor in third and fourth world countries are immediate threats to children of all ages. Isolated tribes and regions of great poverty within developed and developing countries deserve special study due to threats to the very survival of some of these peoples. REFERENCES Achenbach, R.M., and Edelbrock, C.S. 1981 Behavioral problems and compeeencies reported by parents of normal and disturbed children aged four through sixteen. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child De- velopment 46(1). Agar, M.H. 1980 The Professional Stranger: An luforrnal Introduction to Ethnography. New York: Academic ~ I Press. Bane, M.J., Lein, L. Stueve, A., Welles, B., and O'Donnell, L. 1978 Child Care in the United States. Working Paper No. 2. Wellesley College Center for Research on Women. Barker, R.G., and Wright, H.F. 1954 Midwest and Its Children: The Psychological Ecology of an American Tourn. Evanston, III.: Row, Peterson. Barry, H., III, and Paxson, L.M. 1971 Infancy and early childhood: Cross-cultural codes 2. Ethnology 10:466-508. Barry, H., Child, I.L., and Bacon, M. 1959 Relation of child Braining to subsistence economy. American Anthropologist 61:51-63. Beekman, D. 1977 The Mechanical Baby: A Popular History of the Theory and Practice of Child Raising. New York: Lawrence Hill. Berry, ].W. 1976 Human Ecology and Cognitive Style: Comparative Studies in Cultural and Psychological Ad- aptation. Beverly Hills: Sage-Halseed. 1979 Culture and cognitive style. In A.]. Marsalla, R.G. Tharp, and T.~. Ciborowski, eds., Perspectives on CToss-Cultural Psychology. New York: Academic Press.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: