seems quite inappropriate for the Yoruba, though in a limited literal sense it is not infrequent.
Fostering is another example. It is difficult and sometimes impossible within a single cultural framework to disentangle the direct impact of particular social forms from the impact of the cultural values placed on them, or from the impact of associated other social forms. What is the impact, in terms of the American child's foster-family relationships, of a child being fostered by a series of nonparents, and what is the impact of the fact that fostering is a negatively valued family form, or of the fact that fostering here typically involves little or no continuing contact with prior close connections?
Or consider the meaning of several studies in the United States and England that have reported such findings as an inverse relationship between network density and achievement orientation (e.g., Radecki, 1978), or between the proportion of kin in the network and a measure of happiness or wellbeing ( Phillips, 1981). It seems unlikely that these findings would hold for the Yoruba. Again, this suggests the potential value of cross-cultural research in arriving at more general interpretations. It is not that the specific network findings of specific studies are incorrect but, rather, that they are correct within a single social framework, rather than universally, implying that they are governed by something more basic that has not been directly examined.
We cannot say whether Yoruba children are happier, more competent, or psychologically healthier than American children, nor even whether these are the right questions to ask. Consistent with the different ways they are expected to operate later as Yoruba or American adults, their social lives as children also differ. William Bascom ( 1969) sums up one critical aspect of this difference when he writes: "Yoruba education stresses economic and psychological independence, but not social independence" (p. 68). This is the crux of the Yoruba child's social network.
The research here reported was assisted by grants awarded to Constance Sutton by the Joint Committee on African Studies of the Social Science Research Council, the American Council of Learned Societies, and NSF Grant No. BNS 76-83386.
Bascom W. ( 1969). The Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Brown G. W., Davidson S., Harris T., MacLean U., Pollack S., & Prudo R. ( 1977). Psychiatric disorder in London and North Uist. Social Science and Medicine, 11, 367-377.