Cultural variation in the early development of initiative in children's prosocial helping


Separate lines of research on prosocial development suggest that although toddlers worldwide are eagerly helpful, older children help voluntarily in some communities but in other communities, children become resistant to helping with household work. This study investigated these discrepancies by interviewing 64 Mexican-heritage and middle-class European American mothers of 2–3-year-olds and 6–7-year-olds, all living in the US (20 and 12 at these ages in each community). Mothers’ reports are consistent with diverging developmental patterns, and illuminate how the children become involved in helping with work at home: Most 2–3-year-olds helped voluntarily, with their own initiative (although Mexican-heritage children did so more). At age 6–7, Mexican-heritage children usually helped with their own initiative whereas middle-class European American children seldom did so; they generally helped under adult management and control, in contractual arrangements. Accounting for cultural variation is important for advancing theories of prosocial development; the paper suggests socialization practices that may explain the different patterns.



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Social Development



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