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Awakening Children's MindsHow Parents and Teachers Can Make a Difference$
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Laura E. Berk

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195124859

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195124859.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 08 December 2021

The Social Origins of Mental Life

The Social Origins of Mental Life

(p.37) Two The Social Origins of Mental Life
Awakening Children's Minds

Laura E. Berk

Oxford University Press

Talia and Jim’s fear of helping 7-year-old Anselmo with his homework, lest they create a dependent, immature child, is a peculiarly Western—and profoundly American—preoccupation. American middle-class parents typically regard young children as dependent beings who must be urged toward independence. In response to researchers’ queries, they frequently say that babies should be trained to be self-reliant from the first few months. Consequently, they place a high value on children’s learning and doing on their own. Repeatedly relying on others for assistance is construed as weakness, uncertainty, and lack of capacity. In keeping with this view, many American parents worry that if their children seek help, they may become dependent. A similar view permeates traditional classrooms, where an individualistic value system prevails. Children must “do their own work.” In the most intensely individualistic of these settings, conferring with your neighbor is worse than dependency; it is cheating, and teachers go so far as to set up barriers between pupils, such as upright books and cardboard screens, to prevent it. This emphasis on independent accomplishment is not broadly accepted around the world. Indeed, adults in some non-Western cultures regard American parents as rather merciless in pushing their young children toward independence—for example, when they insist that infants sleep alone rather than with their parents, or when they take pleasure in the earliest possible mastery of motor skills, such as crawling and walking, long before the child has acquired the reasoning powers to avoid steep staircases and busy roadways. Diverse non-Western peoples and American ethnic minorities stress interdependence—that children must feel intimately linked to others to become competent and self-reliant. Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Guatemalan-Mayan, eastern Kentucky Appalachian, and many other cultural groups regard newborn infants as psychologically separate beings whose most important task is to develop an interdependent relationship with their community—an emotional and social foundation that is crucial for survival and learning. Witness the following conclusion by a researcher who compared American with Japanese infant rearing practices: “An American mother-infant relationship consists of two individuals ... a Japanese mother-infant relationship consists of only one individual, i.e., mother and infant are not divided.”

Keywords:   Authoritative parenting, Brain development, Cheating, Dialogic reading, False-belief reasoning, Grandparents, Infantile amnesia

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