Developmental Psychology: An Advanced Textbook

By Marc H. Bornstein; Michael E. Lamb | Go to book overview

13

Development Viewed in its
Cultural Context

Barbara Rogoff

Mary Gauvain

Shari Ellis

University of Utah


INTRODUCTION

Cross-cultural research permits psychologists a broader perspective on human development than is available when considering human behavior in a single cultural group. This expanded view holds important implications for a psychology that has grown out of Western thought and has been tested almost exclusively on Western societies. 1 By allowing psychologists to view variations on human behavior not normally found in mainstream U.S. or Western European society, cross-cultural observation aids in the understanding of human adaptation. Cross‐ cultural research may allow psychologists to disentangle variables highly associated in one culture but less so in another. In addition, cross-cultural investigations can make use of variations within a single society to examine naturally occurring cause—effect relationships that cannot be manipulated experimentally. Most importantly, cross-cultural research forces psychologists to look closely at the impact

____________________
1
In cross-cultural psychology, the term 'Western' is used to refer to technological, industrialized, modem cultures such as the United States, Canada, Western Europe, or Russia. While it is not geographically appropriate, it is more satisfactory than its substitutes which generally carry unwarranted value judgments regarding degree of civilization, development, or cultural advancement.

Please note that our use of the term culture is intentionally broad. While we focus on comparisons of groups differing in their societal membership and examinations of the workings of culture within groups, we believe our arguments are appropriate for groups differing in other background experiences (e.g., age or gender). We also note that Western cultures and non-Western cultures are not homogeneous; societal and subcultural variation of all sorts provide valuable material for comparisons among groups or examination of patterns within groups.

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