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Cross-cultural Parenting

“Enculturation’’ is preparing children for the physical, economic and psychological situations which are symbolic of their culture. A lot of interest has been generated recently in the phenomenon called Cross-cultural parenting. But parenting styles across different cultures traverse and influence one another sometimes positively and sometimes not.

Similarities in parenting across cultures

• Young infants are simulated more in object-oriented ways rather than social interactions.
• Adult-directed speech tones are preferred rather than infant-directed ones.
• Response to nurturance and imitation and infant interaction patterns are more or less similar.
• Toys for kids are the common binding factor when it comes to playing with children.

Variations in parenting across cultures

• US American mothers display higher proportions of didactic-oriented response types and lower proportions of social response types; Japanese mothers show the reverse.
• Israeli mothers and infants are more independent of one another, whereas mothers and infants in other societies are generally more “in tune” with one another.
• American and European traditions of parenting encourage environmental interest and interpersonal independence. Parents are more information-oriented and verbal in their interactions. In Argentina, however, the traditional child-rearing orientation is authoritative.
• US American mothers tend to make more referential statements and ask more questions about the environment. In contrast, Japanese mothers use nonsense, onomatopoeic utterances. They demonstrate and seek more pretence play from their toddlers who exhibit more symbolic play.


Parenting in America focuses more on individuality and innovation whereas the French emphasize on tradition and solidarity and not on speeding up child development in a competitive manner. The French are not in a rush to teach ABCs, they do not cater to a child’s every whimper or whim and neither are they overtly protective about their children.

In France, it is considered essential for parents, mothers in particular, to take out quality time for themselves. Mothers are expected to return to work as soon as possible and staying at home to take care of the kid is not a practice. Not everything about French parenting is perfect. But teaching children to be obedient and respectful towards others has shaped French parenting. Government support in the form of subsidized daycare has helped the cause.

The Chinese model of parenting is heavily dependent on the teachings of Confucius of being interdependent members of society. Parents are known to be tough and push their children hard so that they can be providers. But some of the disciplinary tactics might not find acceptance with North American parents.
A Chinese man was forced to defend his parenting tactics after a video of his toddler son running laps on a snowy New York street in nothing but his underwear went viral.

A Latino family lays great emphasis on authoritative and authoritarian parenting strategies. Some are deemed abusive in North America. Cupping, for example is applying a hot cup to a child’s body to rid it of toxins. But the question is- is it really abuse if the intent is to heal and not harm the child?

A few American parents in Sweden have gotten into hot water themselves for spanking their children. Sweden was the first country which banned corporal punishment as early as 1979, considering it to be detrimental to good parenting. Sweden is one of 32 countries today to have a law against the practice, which is legal in the United States. The Swedish system relies more on ‘support’ to rear a child than anything else.

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