Personality Development (page 3)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Cultural Expectations and Socialization

As we’ve seen, cultural groups can influence children’s personalities through the parenting styles they encourage. But culture also has a more direct influence on children’s personal and social development through a process known as socialization. That is, members of a cultural group work hard to help growing children adopt the behaviors and beliefs that the group holds dear. Children typically learn their earliest lessons about their culture’s standards and expectations for behavior from parents and other family members, who teach them personal hygiene, rudimentary manners (e.g., saying please and thank you), and so on. Once children reach school age, teachers become equally important socialization agents. For example, in mainstream Western society, teachers typically expect and encourage a variety of specific behaviors—showing respect for authority figures, following instructions, working independently, asking for help when it’s needed, controlling impulses, and so on (Helton & Oakland, 1977; R. D. Hess & Holloway, 1984). Cultures around the globe encourage many of these behaviors, but they don’t necessarily endorse all of them. As an example, let’s return to the opening case study. Recall how Lupita sits quietly in class, apparently even when she might need help with an assigned task. Many Mexican immigrants are more accustomed to observing events quietly and unobtrusively than to asking adults for explanations. Recall, too, that Lupita willingly abandons her own projects to play with one classmate and assist two others with puzzles. On average, children of Mexican heritage feel more comfortable working cooperatively with peers rather than independently.

Researchers have observed other cultural differences in personal and social characteristics as well. For instance, European American families often encourage assertiveness and independence, but families from many other countries (e.g., Mexico, China, Japan, India) encourage restraint, obedience, and deference to elders (Chao, 1994; Goodnow, 1992; Joshi & MacLean, 1994; Rothbaum, Weisz, Pott, Miyake, & Morelli, 2000). And whereas many children in China are reared to be shy, many in Zambia are reared to smile and be outgoing(X. Chen, Rubin, & Sun, 1992; Hale-Benson, 1986; D. Y. F. Ho, 1986, 1994). But considerable diversity exists within a culture, with different parents, teachers, and other adults encouraging somewhat different behaviors and beliefs.

When behaviors expected of students at school differ from those expected at home, or when belief systems presented by teachers are inconsistent with those of children’s parents, children may initially experience some culture shock. At a minimum, children are apt to be confused and less productive than they might be otherwise, at least in the first few days or weeks of school. Some youngsters with less adaptable or more irritable temperaments may even become angry or resistant (R. D. Hess & Holloway, 1984; Kumar, Gheen, & Kaplan, 2002).

As teachers, we must especially encourage our students to exhibit those behaviors essential for long-term school success, such as obeying school rules, following instructions, and working independently. For example, when we expect students to work independently, even those students who have not had this expectation placed on them at home show improved work habits (J. L. Epstein, 1983). At the same time, students will need our guidance, support, and patience when our expectations differ from those of their family or cultural group.

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