Early Child Care Teachers' Socialization Goals and Preferred Behavioral Strategies: A Cross-Cultural Comparison

Article excerpt

This study investigated early child care teachers' culturally shaped socialization goals and preferred behavioral strategies. The participants were 183 female teachers and trainees, 93 from Osnabruck, Germany, representing an urban Western context, which can be characterized by a primary cultural orientation toward psychological autonomy and a constructivist pedagogical approach; and 90 Cameroonian teachers, representing a rural non-Western context, which can be characterized by a primary cultural emphasis on hierarchical relatedness and a didactic approach of formal apprenticeship. The teachers answered questionnaires about their general socialization goals, professional educational goals, and preferred behavioral strategies. Overall, the different cultural orientations and pedagogical approaches were embodied in teachers' general goals and preferred strategies. The German early child care teachers emphasized the value of psychological autonomy and child-centered methods most, whereas the Cameroonian teachers focused on hierarchical-relational socialization goals and apprenticeship-based teaching methods. However, results also showed discrepancies between general and professional goals of early child care teachers of the same cultural context, as well as differences with respect to teachers' work experience, indicating further impact factors on early child care teachers' goals besides the own cultural belief system.

Keywords: early childhood teachers, cross-cultural, child rearing beliefs, autonomy, relatedness

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A large number of children in diverse cultural environments attend early child care institutions and often spend more waking time with teachers and peers than with their parents (Hsueh & Barton, 2006). Thus, it can be assumed that early child care teachers significantly influence children's socialization and education (Pierrehumbert, Ramstein, Karmaniola, Miljkovitch, & Halfon, 2002). In particular, as main constituents of caregivers' belief system, their socialization goals and their ideas about appropriate behavioral strategies influence children's experiences (Ahnert & Lamb, 2003; Maccoby & Lewis, 2003). Although examining child-rearing beliefs has a longstanding tradition, it is only within the last 20 years that research has focused also on professional caregivers (Friedlmeier, Schafermeier, Vasconcellos, & Trommsdorff, 2008; Hsueh & Barton, 2006; Huijbregts, Leseman, & Tavecchio, 2008; Huijbregts, Tavecchio, Leseman, & Hoffenaar, 2009; Tobin, Wu, & Davidson, 1989; Tulviste & Kikas, 2010). Thus, researching deeper into early child care teachers' socialization goals and preferred teaching strategies could make an important contribution to the existing knowledge about children's learning environments.

Socialization goals form an essential context for children's development, as they affect caregivers' educational beliefs, their perception and interpretation of child behavior, and their child-rearing practices (Bugental & Johnston, 2000; Kagitgibasi, 1997). They serve to facilitate children's development toward competence and success in later life (Kagitgibasi, 2007). As competence is conceptualized differently across cultures (Kagitgibasi, 1996; Keller, 2003; Segall, Dasen, Berry, & Poortinga, 1999), socialization goals reflect those skills and competencies that caregivers regard as adaptive for their children to become successful adults in their particular cultural context (Keller, 2003; Rosenthal & Roer-Strier, 2001). Cultural contexts can be described as the specific combination of particular eco-cultural variables, such as population parameters (e.g., population density) and socioeconomic variables (e.g., formal education, socioeconomic status [SES]; Berry, 1976; Le Vine, 1974; Whiting, 1963). They have been demonstrated to shape cultural models, which are constituted by the manifestations of the two universal human needs of autonomy and relatedness (Kagitgibasi, 2007; Keller, 2011). …