Mothers' expectations for emotions and behaviors in competent children: a cross-cultural perspective

Open Access
Higgins, Robert Conor
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Pamela Marie Cole, Thesis Supervisor
  • Richard Alan Carlson, Honors Advisor
  • culture
  • emotion
  • behavior
  • maternal beliefs
  • socialization
  • self-construal
  • child competence
  • anger
  • aggression
The present research tests whether the cultural framework for self-construal (independent versus interdependent) of the nation in which a mother resides is associated with her expectations for how a competent first grader feels and acts in situations that are anger-evoking. The participants were 502 mothers from five nations (Germany, India, South Korea, Nepal, and the US). Specifically, it was predicted that mothers from nations known to value an interdependent self-construal, in which relationships prevail over personal goals and needs, would describe competent first graders as non-angry and non-aggressive relative to mothers from nations that value the independence of self. In individual interviews, each mother was asked to think of a competent first-grade-age boy and girl whom she knew and describe how the children feel and act in two situations: 1) the child’s toy was snatched by another child and 2) the child’s blocks were knocked down by another child. Mothers’ open-ended responses were audio recorded. Child emotions were later classified as angry or not angry and child behaviors as aggressive and non-aggressive. Χ2 analyses supported the hypothesis. For both scenarios, fewer mothers from interdependent nations (India and Nepal) expect a competent first grader to feel angry compared to mothers from independent nations (Germany and US). The findings for child behaviors were different, however, for the two scenarios. For the knocked down blocks, the hypothesis was not supported; more mothers from interdependent nations expect a competent first grader to act aggressively. For the snatched toy, there was no relation between the mother’s nation and her expectations of child behavior. The findings from this study reveal heterogeneity and context specificity in maternal responses within and between nations and suggest future directions for research on cultural influences on mothers’ beliefs about socially appropriate behavior for children.