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Parenting Cultural Norms

(36 Posts)
Tortoiseonthehalfshell Mon 04-Jul-11 07:28:58

Does anyone know of any decent books or websites that talk about parenting norms in different countries? I was really intrigued by a thread on here last week where an English woman working as an au pair in Sweden was so horrified by what she saw as abuse that she called social security on the parents, and a Swedish poster now living in England talked about some of the things that are usual in the UK which Swedes see as bad parenting.

I belong to a US, a UK and an Australian parenting forum, and the differences stand out to me, but I'm really fascinated and want to research further. Does anyone else know about/care about this stuff?

Otherwise I'm just going to write it myself. As soon as someone gives me a huge research grant, obviously.

CheerfulYank Mon 04-Jul-11 07:38:10

I don't know of any but I think it would be fascinating to read.

kreecherlivesupstairs Mon 04-Jul-11 08:07:00

No idea. I have been a mother in four countries and the different approaches are fascinating.

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Mon 04-Jul-11 08:09:37

Googling is turning up occasional studies on the different approaches to the medicalisation of birth in different countries but nothing else.

Right, I'm off to prepare a research grant. I'll be back to quiz you all later.

iskra Mon 04-Jul-11 08:39:00

There's some anthropological stuff, generally on 'mothering'. I remember reading a study on mothering & work in identity for Asante women in Ghana... Do you have access to Athens?

hester Mon 04-Jul-11 08:39:49

What an interesting question. kreecher, can you tell us more?

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Mon 04-Jul-11 08:46:20


I'm really interested in comparable first world countries, although I do find the more broad ranging stuff fascinating as well, because I'm really thinking about norms in the context of societies where everyone has access to education and good food and shelter and whatnot. I mean, not that I know anything about Ghana, but I'm assuming that some of the societal model there is more about survival than about the ... what I call the "1%" of parenting, the bits we all worry about once the basics are taken care of.

I can see that it'd actually be a really tricky area to research, because I doubt that we can identify our own cultural norms, it's only when you see other people's that it even becomes visible. And then of course it's wildly disparate between socio-economic groups. My American site has a similar demographic base to Mumsnet, so it's really interesting to me to see the differences in cultural norms, but it'd be a bugger to actually do research on.

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Mon 04-Jul-11 08:46:54

(sorry x-post, 'nope' was to Iskra!)

TanteRose Mon 04-Jul-11 08:47:28

Our Babies, Ourselves is good...

TanteRose Mon 04-Jul-11 08:48:10


I highly recommend "Our Babies, Ourselves" to any parent interested in an anthropologically and biologically-oriented approach to parenthood, especially motherhood. It provides numerous data on how biology affects the parent-baby relationship as well as the baby's behavior and objectively presents how various cultures (including the United States') worldwide accommodate and/or neglect these biological factors and the impact that accommodation or neglect has on the parent/baby relationship.

allhailtheaubergine Mon 04-Jul-11 08:48:53

What are the big stand out differences between the brits, the australians and the americans? <interested>

iskra Mon 04-Jul-11 08:49:04

There's an association in Australia doing some work, google Andrea o'Reilly I think. Moving house today so will check in tomorrow with better chat!

cory Mon 04-Jul-11 08:50:14

sounds really interesting (I was the Swedish poster btw)

we spend our holidays in Sweden with my extended family but also have enormous respect for MIL and the way she brought up dh and have dcs in ordinary English state schools, so have learnt to juggle two different sets of parenting norms

it's been very interesting to have my own preconceptions tested and shaken up a bit; I think I am a more tolerant person than I was

was just looking at the old photo album of me that my mum brought over and realising this isn't something I can leave around in the living room for my English friends to see: we're naked in half those photos, up to at least 5 or 6 and clearly nobody thought about it at the time- but I bet some of my friends would

hester Mon 04-Jul-11 09:12:38

I've just ordered that book, TanteRose. Thanks for the recommendation.

FullCream Mon 04-Jul-11 09:47:13

There's very little anthropology on childhood and parenthood, it's also something I'm interested in, although looking more at perspectives from hunter-gatherer communities (who I already work with). I wouldn't say the daily concern for food, shelter and warmth in many communities dominates their views on these issues though. All cultures view raising children in differing ways according to deep-rooted values that don't necessarily have much to do with the local environment.

The people I work with view children in profoundly different ways to the dominant 'western' cultural model. But I'm only just beggining to think about these issues since having my own - perhaps we should combine our research proposals tortoise!

FullCream Mon 04-Jul-11 09:52:53

This book could be interesting. Not quite what you asked for but seems to be about the concept of childhood and the role of parenting from a range of different cultural perspectives.

kreecherlivesupstairs Mon 04-Jul-11 11:01:38

Even a country like Oman differed hugely. People in the more developed parts were more interested in education for their children for example, than those either in villages where the learning was all done in a mosque or more extremely the Beduin who didn't have access to book learning at all and it wasn't valued.

lisianthus Mon 04-Jul-11 15:32:20

Could someone direct me to the thread tortoise mentioned. please? It sounds fascinating!

TanteRose Mon 04-Jul-11 15:38:13

this one, I think

CheerfulYank Mon 04-Jul-11 17:00:06

That was very interesting cory . People here (in Minnesota) have much the same attitude toward the outdoors and children. Wonder if it's because most of the early settlers were Scandinavians? smile

ToysRLuv Mon 04-Jul-11 18:40:00

There are definite differences. I am from Scandinavia and cannot understand why DH (English) thinks it's inappropriate to bathe/swim or sauna naked with your (young) children. He thinks that he needs to wear a bathing suit. DS is just going to think that lady bits are ok to show, but willies are "bad" hmm . DH also cannot go to the toilet if anyone else is in the room (DS, for example). Neither does he want anyone else to be on the toilet while he is there (I ignore him a lot of the time)..

MoonFaceMamaaaaargh Mon 04-Jul-11 20:20:56

watching with interest... smile

Gilberte Mon 04-Jul-11 20:33:36

Fascinating discussion. I have just read the other thread too. FWIW I'm English and spent my a lot of my childhood naked and barefoot in the summer(I grew up in the 70s in the countryside). There is cinefilm of me riding a bicycle nude etc. I realise this might not be typical or is it only in the last couple of decades that things have really changed here?

Saying that I can't go to the toilet on my own as one or other of my DDs is in with me asking me if I need to do a wee or a poo and usually wanting a good look as well. I'm not saying I wouldn't like some privacy, I just don't get it at the moment.

Othersideofthechannel Mon 04-Jul-11 20:56:14

You might find this documentary interesting. I haven't seen it yet but it has been on my list to rent for a while


quirrelquarrel Mon 04-Jul-11 21:14:08

I was brought up by two foreign parents and although my mum certainly brought her special brand of wackiness into the mix, by the time I was six or so (been in England for just over a year) I knew that my parents were different and it was because they were foreign. For me, I really wanted them to be English and have the right accents. I wanted a sweetie day, not stodgy quinoa in fake tupperware. I wanted clothes that smelt of fabric conditioner like the other kids, tissues in a packet, to forget how to talk my other two languages most of all. I'd be at school and be told I was clever all day for doing the simplest things, and then come home to hear that I should be doing more, that I was this and that and always taking the easy way out. Not that they didn't praise me, but there was a big difference, higher standards, I guess.

But also things like unquestioning obedience, which I didn't see amongst my friends and definitely not now. Little kids in England (often) just laugh in their parents' faces when they're told to do something and they're negotiated with all the time, my little cousins in France all the way to my strapping 19 year old big boy cousins always do as they're told, and they manage to be happy independent thinkers at the same time, imagine that.
Umm what else...discipline. Self-discipline is a huge thing in our family. Things like getting over mum still tells me off if she sees me catch up a book for two minutes waiting for something, she thinks I should learn to be bored and not be so easy on myself (I agree with that...). But basically no one over there wants a cry baby or someone who can't get up and deal with their own scrapes and bruises. When I first came to England I was v. surprised because all the grown ups seemed to talk to me like I was a baby (not baby talk- but things like 'all right, love, you just tell me if you need anything, anything at all!' and coddling little pleasantries, no straight talking, as if they were at our beck and call) and also because people made a big fuss out of the tiniest things like bee stings or organising every little thing for the kids (like the mothers would know exactly what the child needed for school the next day, they'd set out the laundered PE kit all ready etc, whereas my mum always made sure I knew she didn't have to do all that for me). When I was little, my mum always made fun of me, always always teased me, and if I suddenly stood up and said that had inhibited me or caused terrible scarring psychological damage I'd be straight in line for more teasing, but I think in England I would really be taken seriously. Oh and I was always struck when I went to sleepovers and we were allowed to watch TV and have breakfast made and brought to us in the mornings. Wow! I always overate, partly because I loved the whole ritual...lazy decadence after my own home of healthy, spartan, obedience etc.

There's not so much attachment to snacking between meals grin even the French plastics work hard at school. I asked my cousin over there if he liked school and he shrugged and said that it was school, you had to do well, but what was there to like? Whereas here schools are completely focused on engaging the child, no child left behind and their complaints are carefully noted down and dealt with i.e. we are always being asked "how could we make this lesson more fun? What could we do to make it more interesting?", which has come from the parents, I think. Good or bad thing? Don't want to be too negative in this post. England is a very childcentric place. Over in France etc children are welcomed when they have something valuable to say, but that's not very often, so they should clear off during apero and that's that, no squalling, no 'histoires', no hanging on their every word.

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