Mothers' Criteria of Child Competence Across Cultures

Open Access
Wood, Lauren Elizabeth
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Pamela Marie Cole, Thesis Supervisor
  • William Ray, Honors Advisor
  • mothers
  • child competence
  • cultures
The role of culture in child development remains poorly understood. Differences in parenting practices have been documented, but often the research fails to explain why those differences exist. One reason for differences in parenting practices may be that parents in different cultural contexts have different concepts of what constitutes competence in children. The present study examined cultural differences in maternal conceptions of child competence by using an open-ended format interview, the Criteria of Child Competency (CCC) interview, with mothers from nations that value individuality and independence (Germany, the United States), nations that value communality and interdependence (India, Nepal), and a nation with traditional values of communality and interdependence that is undergoing rapid modernization, which may call for also valuing individuality and independence. Mothers from these five nations were administered the CCC interview in which they were asked to think of both a first grade child who was doing well and then a child of the same age but the other gender. They were further asked what it was about each child that led them to think the child was doing well and how the children behaved when they were not doing well. A system was developed for coding mothers’ descriptions that classified whether descriptors represented any of five domains of development: physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and self development. In addition, when possible, mothers’ descriptors of children were further classified into subdomains in each category. The frequencies for each domain and subdomain were analyzed as a function of cultural group to identify similarities and differences in maternal conceptions of child competence.