Children’s Contributions in Family Work: Two Cultural Paradigms


This chapter discusses two cultural paradigms of children’s involvement in family and community endeavors that channel many aspects of children’s everyday lives and their families’ approaches to child rearing. One paradigm – in which children are segregated from many family and community endeavors – is commonly assumed in scholarship on children’s development to characterize childhood generally, but this paradigm is likely to be limited to highly schooled communities like those of many researchers. In a distinct paradigm that occurs in some communities in which Western schooling has not been prevalent, children are integrated as valued, mutual contributors in family and community endeavors. Theories of motivation and prosocial development do not yet adequately account for learning paradigms related to children’s integration as collaborative contributors in mature endeavors.

The chapter examines how each paradigm organizes children’s contributions in everyday household work, with an illustration of cultural differences between two communities in Mexico. It appears that in the paradigm where children are integrated as collaborative contributors in shared, mutual family responsibilities, children regularly take initiative to make complex prosocial contributions and their mothers value their helpfulness. By contrast, it appears that in the paradigm where children are segregated from mature family responsibilities, they contribute minimally, they seldom take initiative in family work, and their mothers assign them their “own” chores to do and rarely expect children’s help without adult management. Our chapter considers the potential ramifications of the segregation or collaborative integration of children in meaningful and mutual roles in family and community endeavors.



Publication Date


Journal Title

Families, Intergenerationality, and Peer Group Relations. Geographies of Children and Young People, vol 5



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Document Type

Book Chapter