Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Socioeconomic Status and Parenting Priorities: Child Independence and Obedience around the World

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Socioeconomic Status and Parenting Priorities: Child Independence and Obedience around the World

Article excerpt

Around the world, parents cultivate in their children values and behaviors that govern society (Quinn, 2005; Super & Harkness, 1986). Yet societies vary as to which values are priorities in the socialization of children (Greenfield, Keller, Fuligni, & Maynard, 2003; Quinn, 2005). A key factor that guides family values and societal norms concerning child socialization is the socioeconomic status (SES) of both individuals and societies (Greenfield, 2009; Kag itçibasi, 2005, 2013; Lareau, 2002, 2011). Using data from 227,431 parents in 90 nations across five study waves (1981-2008), we investigated how national and personal SES shape national culture and parental goals concerning child independence and obedience.

Background

Parenting Priorities in Individualistic and Collectivistic Societies: Independence and Obedience

Individualism-collectivism is a widely used framework for capturing cultural differences, including in the realm of parenting and child socialization. Individualism and collectivism at the cultural level are expressed through independent and interdependent self-construal at the individual level (Kag itçibasi, 2013). In this study, we focused on a specific domain within the broader construct of collectivism/interdependence to address vertical collectivism, or viewing the self as related to others in an obligatory, hierarchical fashion.

In individualistic societies in which the self is understood as an independent entity, parents place much emphasis on fostering child independence in order for their children to grow up as autonomous and independent individuals (Greenfield et al., 2003; Heine, 2012; Keller et al., 2006; Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Early on, children are encouraged to explore the surrounding environments on their own, away from proximal bodily contact with their caregivers (Gonzalez-Mena & Eyer, 2009; Greenfield et al., 2003; Keller et al., 2006). In addition, positive child development is often evinced by self-assertion and self-enhancement (Greenfield et al., 2003; Keller et al., 2006). Thus, parents who exercise close monitoring and frequent solicitation in parent-child interactions risk the negative perception that they may be controlling and thwarting children's learning and achievement of self-regulation (Greenfield et al., 2003; Keller et al., 2006; Landry, Smith & Swank, 2003; Rubin, Cheah, & Fox, 2001). In the context of individualistic socialization, independence is a central theme.

In contrast, parents in collectivistic societies emphasize group harmony, which implies an understanding of the self in relation to one's context and relationship with others (Greenfield et al., 2003; Heine, 2012; Keller et al., 2006; Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Although relationships are valued across societies, a more pervasive emphasis on relating to others within roles defined by vertical relationships differentiates collectivistic societies; in individualistic societies, relationships are more likely to be egalitarian and based on choice (Cross, Bacon, & Morris, 2000; Fernández, Paez, & González, 2005; Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, 2002; Park, Coello, & Lau, 2014; Triandis & Gelfand, 1998). Thus, a strong sense of connectedness among individuals through duty and obligation is central in collectivistic societies and tied to interdependent self-construal.

In the realm of child socialization, parental emphasis on child obedience is a way to structure and maintain close-knit vertical relationships. Indeed, in collectivistic societies, parents who display high levels of directiveness and authority toward their children are viewed as practicing appropriate parenting that fosters obedience, respect, and competence in children (Bugental & Grusec, 1998; Chao & Tseng, 2002; Rudy & Grusec, 2006). Even in infancy, parents use guidance designed to cultivate compliant toddlers with the ability to inhibit rewarding but socially sanctioned actions (Keller, 2007; Keller et al. …

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