The Social World of the Yoruba Child
Muriel Hammer New York State Psychiatric Institute
Constance Sutton* New York University
Almost all the chapters in this volume deal with the social networks of American children; in this chapter we describe the social networks of Yoruba children in Nigeria. The contemporary social world of Yoruba children provides a sharp contrast with that of American children, despite the many variants in both societies.
To state one major conclusion at the very beginning: The Yoruba child typically participates daily in a denser, more extensive network of social relationships than do American children. From earliest infancy, the child is surrounded by large numbers of adults and other children, especially but not only extended kin, both within and outside the child's own household.
In the early days of culture and personality studies, Ralph Linton ( 1936) suggested two polar social types, one associated with emphasis on the nuclear family, conjugal bonds, and intense affective ties with relatively few individuals, the other associated with emphasis on the extended family, consanguineal bonds, and more diffuse affective ties with relatively many individuals. Although interest in this hypothesis waned some time ago, partly because of difficulties in making the concepts more precise and avoiding circular reasoning, some reformulation of such ideas may be worthwhile, particularly in the context of new methods and issues in research on socialization.
Perhaps one illustration can suggest the kinds of cultural meanings that differences between these polar types may be associated with. Americans