Writing this autobiographical account of how I have become involved in cross-cultural developmental psychology is an insightful process of reconstruction and a learning experience for me. Some of the basic influences that have helped shape my current views on psychology in general and cross-cultural and developmental psychology in particular can be traced to my early experiences. It is good, therefore, that I was asked by the editors to start out with my family background and early years. What I will present here will provide the reader with an international and cross-cultural perspective, given that I am Turkish and have spent most of my life in Turkey. In retrospect, I can detect some profoundly important themes in my upbringing that have served and continue to serve as guiding principles in my life. Describing my early experiences in terms of these themes may help put my personal development and current worldview and academic orientation into perspective. One of these can be called "social commitment" and the other "achievement." They reflect both the strong socialization expectations from me as well as life goals I have set (internalized) for myself.
I was born in 1940 as the first child of a young couple who were teachers. My parents were both from Istanbul, the modern metropolis, but as civil servants they were appointed to posts in the provincial town of Bursa, where I grew up. The early 1940s were years of hardship even though Turkey managed to stay out of the war. Civil servants, especially teachers, earned little but enjoyed high social status because they had relatively high levels of education and represented the modern elite in a traditional society. 1
My parents were truly the products of their time; they were fully committed to the Atatark reforms and felt that as teachers they had a mission in building up a modern secular society out of the ashes of an old one based on tradition and religion. With very limited funds they started a private kindergarten in Bursa, which slowly grew into a primary and secondary school. I was the first student of the school at the age of two and have been in schools all my life.