Three- and four-year-old children have a range of culturally specific opportunities to develop social skills at home. In culturally diverse environments such as New Zealand, interplay between ethnic group, caregivers' expectations, and children's home interactions is important because different cultural groups share common educational and health systems. In this exploratory study, we compared three and four-year-old children's interactions with adults and older siblings in Tongan (N = 5) and European (N = 5) families who had lived in urban New Zealand for one to five generations. Adults' ideas of appropriate behaviors for their young children provided the basis for interpreting quantitative data obtained from counts of selected verbal and nonverbal behaviors, and measures of children's active involvement in their interactions. Tongan children had similar patterns of interaction with adults and older siblings. European children were more verbal and tended to elicit more ongoing interactions with adults versus siblings. We also compared the interactions of Tongan and European children directly. European children's interactions with adults were more verbal than those of Tongan children. European children were more successful at achieving ongoing interactions with adults. These cultural differences reflected caregivers' ideas of child-appropriate behavior. While all children demonstrated social skills that were important in their respective homes and communities, European children had more opportunities to develop patterns of child–adult interaction that are rewarded in New Zealand schools.
Field of Research
200209 Multicultural, Intercultural and Cross-cultural Studies
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