The Influence of Culture

This is the second blog in a series titled, “The Core Concepts of Development.” Click here for part 1.


All families and cultures have different backgrounds, experiences, dreams for their children, habits, and customs that guide their thinking about raising children (Coll & Magnuson, 2000).

I was raised in a military family.  Punctuality was important and a sign of respect for other’s time.  In this culture, to be late was rude.  I recently had a conversation with a Samoan friend of mine.  I mentioned how different it was to be around her family and friends, because they were always starting meetings, dinners, or parties late.  She looked at me in surprise and said that it would be rude to start before everyone was there.  I had never thought about that concept before.  In her culture, punctuality meant nothing.  Waiting for everyone showed respect and politeness.  

We each have different cultures we are raised in, and not just in ethnic cultures.

True, there is an American culture, a European culture, Hispanic or Polynesian cultures, or any number of different races and countries that affect our beliefs and social norms.  But there are cultures such as the military culture that I was raised in.  There are families that are great believers in physical activities and sports, families that are involved in music, drama, or art.  There are different religious cultures, or atheist cultures.  There are families with a culture and background of abusive behaviors, and those with great love and support.  

Each family develops a culture that is unique to them.

As parents, we can apply this knowledge in several ways.  

  • For one, we can teach our children to be open-minded and accepting of the beliefs and cultures of other families by teaching our children to love and respect each person for who they are.
  • We can also examine our own family cultures and see if they need some improvement.  
    • Were you raised in a family where parents were over-bearing and possibly abusive?  Are you passing on that culture?
    • Are you teaching your children to work and be self-sufficient or are you raising them in a culture of entitlement?  
    • Are you a family that listens and discusses?  
    • We might need to break from old habits.

Another area of culture is child-raising and parenting.  Is one parent going to stay at home to raise the children as in a traditional culture? Who will work?  Who will do which household chores?  Who will change the diapers?  When is bedtime?  When is curfew?  Each of the spouses will bring the cultures they were raised with to the table when they decide (and if they decide) to have a family.  

Remember that culture is not usually a matter of right and wrong, just a blending of different styles and an appreciation of what each culture has to offer.   

Garcia, C., & Magnuson, K. (2000). Cultural influences on child development: Are we ready for a paradigm shift? Cultural Processes in Child Development: The Minnesota Symposium on Child Psychology, chapter 1. p.21.  Psychology Press, New York & London (2000).

Wittmer, D.S. & Petersen S.H. (2010) Core concepts of prenatal, infant, and toddler development. Retrieved from: concepts-prenatal-infant-toddler/

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