Excerpt from Huffington Post Article January 2017:
Babies are comfortable expressing negative moods, while American babies are particularly active and social. That’s because the values and norms of your culture shape the person you’ll become from a young age, scientists believe.
And the earliest, and likely the most lasting, of these cultural influences comes from ― you guessed it ― your parents.
During the five years she spent studying babies around the world, Washington State University psychologist Dr. Maria Gartstein made some striking observations of how parents’ different cultural values influenced the temperaments and behavior of their babies. These temperamental patterns could set the stage for mental health or illness down the road.
Gartstein and her colleagues conducted a cross-cultural examination of the behavior of Chilean, Polish, South Korean and American babies, the results of which were recently published in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology. The mothers of 125 to 420 babies in each country were asked to fill out observations of more than 200 behaviors and temperamental qualities in their infants at 6 months and 1 year old, including activity level, shyness, sadness, cuddliness and attention focusing.
The results showed significant parenting differences across these four cultures. American babies, for instance, were more social and impulsive than babies from the other countries, and they were also the most likely to enjoy highly stimulating activities.
“[American babies] have some unique opportunities and challenges, compared to infants growing up in other regions of the world,” Gartstein said. “I really appreciate their readiness to engage and share enjoyment ― the baby version of extraversion, if you will.”
American mothers also reported that their babies were less likely to display negative emotions, and are easy to soothe when upset. This behavior may result from parents discouraging their children from expressing negative emotions.
The other babies, however, acted very differently. In fact, Garstein says that she was taken aback by the extent of the behavioral differences seen across cultures.
“One of my more profound moments occurred when I realized that parent-infant interaction dynamics varied dramatically, even in cultures we think of as being similar,” Gartstein told The Huffington Post.