Assignment: Cultural Influences on Infant Development

Assignment: Cultural Influences on Infant Development

In your Discussion Spark this week, you began to consider how culture impacts infants’ social and emotional development. This is not an easy question with easy answers. In fact, the more you learn about factors that influence development, the more you may realize that development is incredibly complex! The influence of culture on development is no exception.

One specific cultural difference that emerges with respect to caring for infants in the first year is sleeping arrangements. In some cultures, such as the United States, putting together a nursery is a large part of the preparation that occurs as a couple awaits the arrival of a new baby. In a culture that values independence, having an infant sleep independently in his or her own room is highly valued. However, other cultures have a preference for parent-infant sleeping. In fact, over 90% of the world co-sleeps with their infants. (The United States is an exception to the norm!) How does this differential approach to infant sleep ultimately impact children’s social and emotional development? Research has shown that, despite the worry of co-sleeping critiques, children who co-sleep with their parents are not at a disadvantage either social or emotionally and are not overly dependent on their parents (Okami, Weismer, & Olmstead, 2002).

In your Assignment this week, you take a cross-cultural view of parenting in the first year. By watching the documentary Babies, you see the varied approaches that parents in the United States, Japan, Mongolia, and Namibia take to raising their infants. You view this documentary through the lens of what you have learned this week in the readings about social and emotional development in the first year and see the varied ways parents can differentially promote infant development.

To Prepare:

  • Watch the documentary Babies, focusing specifically on two of the four babies for this Assignment.
  • Consider each of your two selected babies’ social and emotional development and how it may be influenced by cultural practices or beliefs.

The Assignment (3–4 pages):

Write a paper in which you do the following:

  • Analyze the social and emotional development of your two selected infants in their cultures. How do their various cultural contexts shape the way their social and emotional development unfolds in the first year? In your paper, give specific examples that you noticed in the documentary. Interpret your observations through the Learning Resources or other scholarly resources.
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