Given the extreme paucity of research conducted to date with Latin American infants and families, the field is wide open for investigation. Survival needs must continue to be addressed: birth-weight and perinatal survival, infant and child mortality, and physical growth and nutritional needs. However, in addition to describing rates of mortality and patterns of growth, cultural attitudes, beliefs, values, and traditions that maintain risk factors or contribute to resilience must also be investigated. Furthermore, beyond the few studies described in this chapter, research is notably absent on the social environment of Latin American infants, especially given the strong emphasis these cultures place on kinship bonds, extended family relationships, respect for elder family members, and a collective worldview. Current research conducted in more industrialized countries points to the differential role of culture in infant psychophysiological development. Yet it appears that investigators are of the mind that before we study such issues in Mexico, Central America, and South America, basic needs must first be addressed. Interestingly, however, similar economic and political difficulties are present in many African nations, yet the African infancy literature contains studies examining not only mortality and birth-weight, but also child-rearing practices and other psychosocial questions. Perhaps an additional area of investigation would query reasons that so little research is conducted in Latin America compared to other regions; only then can we begin to remedy this glaring omission in our knowledge of the world’s children.
Mayan descendants bear quiet, alert infants fitted to the quieting child-rearing practices to which they are exposed in their mothers’ rebozos. The belly cinch, the rebozo, covered faces, and frequent breast-feedings to quiet the infant produce imitative, nonexploratory infants who develop in a slightly delayed (about one month) but parallel fashion to U.S. infants in motor, mental, and social parameters.
Interviews were conducted with low-SES women (91 mothers of children under age 2, 25 other mothers, and 23 secondary students) in Lima, Peru. Results indi-