Cultural Influences on Infant Development Essay Paper

Cultural Influences on Infant Development Essay Paper

During the period from birth to 5 years of age, children undergo massive transformations in size, biological organization, behavioral capacities, and the social organization of experience that greatly complicate our understanding of the relation between culture and their learning processes. Cultural Influences on Infant Development Essay Paper

Examination of this complex topic requires provisional definitions of our basic terms. We adopt the following definitions:

Culture consists of the historically accumulated knowledge, tools and attitudes that pervade the child’s proximal ecology, including the cultural “practices” of nuclear family members and other kin. These enculturated members of society are themselves subject to a variety of forces in both the natural ecology and society as they carry out their roles, such as care giving and earning a living.

Learning is understood as a relatively permanent change in behavior and understanding brought about by the child’s experience.

Development entails qualitative changes in the functional organization of children’s intra-individual brain, body and behavior and in accompanying changes in the relationship between children and their socio-culturally organized experiences.


Let’s think a minute about the different things that may be considered part of a person’s culture. What could we include? Most definitely art, clothing, food, music, and religion, just to name a few. But why is this important?Cultural Influences on Infant Development Essay Paper Well, no matter where we live or what we do, our cultural background gives us a sense of identity, something we learn when we’re very young.

America is a beautiful melting pot, infused with a variety of colors, cultures, ethnic backgrounds, languages, and religions. However, it can be difficult to both learn and teach when there are cultural differences. That’s why it’s important for educators to identify and understand how culture impacts early childhood development in order to help all children feel safe, confident, and loved. Let’s take a look at the five major developmental domains through which children grow and progress, and see how they are impacted by culture.

Cognitive Development

Cognitive development refers to how we learned and think. Our brains do the most growing from ages zero to three. How is our learning impacted by our culture? Well, cultural identity might influence cognitive development in the following areas:

  • Cultures that integrate musical performance into daily life may see the benefits of creative thinking on cognitive development.
  • Cultures that value the math and science fields are likely to foster this kind of cognitive development.Cultural Influences on Infant Development Essay Paper
  • Cultures with limited diversity or strained intercultural dynamics can leave one group feeling superior or inferior to another (think sexism and racism).

Emotional & Social Development

A child’s emotional development can also be impacted by their culture. Emotional development is how children learn to process their feelings. Children who have strong religious convictions may have emotional and spiritual support networks to help them develop emotionally. On the other hand, some children who have had the opposite experience within their religious community are emotionally stunted.Cultural Influences on Infant Development Essay Paper Some cultures are more emotive than others and so children from more reserved cultures may not have the same exposure to outward expressions of the full range of human emotion.




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Culture can have positive and negative effects on social development. Social development refers to getting along with others. Children benefit from diverse social experiences that foster a culture of acceptance and inclusion. Sometimes cultural identity helps with social development by providing shared interests and activities to enjoy. Children learn to articulate their culture and share with others by comparing interesting cultural topics with each other.


Cultural and social factors play a large role in the development of infants’ motor skills.  The activities parents engage in with their infants impact the child’s muscular development and are largely responsible for the differences in developmental growth between cultures.

Walking and crawling are two developmental milestones that occur at varying ages, due to differing societal practices in infant care.  Many African women carry their infants on their backs while they work; this position helps infants develop strong core and leg muscles, which facilitates walking at an earlier age (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010). Cultural Influences on Infant Development Essay Paper In contrast, European and American infants have begun to crawl at a later age than was previously typical.  The “Back to Sleep” campaign, put into effect in 1994 to reduce the incidence of SIDS, emphasizes the importance of putting infants to sleep on their backs.  The “Back to Sleep” campaign has experienced great success in reducing the rate of infant death due to SIDS, but has also had an effect on infants’ motor development.  Spending less time on their stomachs, infants are not developing the muscular strength or control needed to propel themselves forward (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010).

Parents can help speed infant development by practicing the motions and postures necessary for the aspect of development they want to promote.  To encourage crawling, parents should ensure their infant gets adequate “tummy-time” to strengthen the neck, back, and arm muscles.  This position also helps infants realize they have the potential to be independent and move about without assistance.  Engaging a newborn’s reflexes, such as the stepping reflex, also helps promote future development.Cultural Influences on Infant Development Essay Paper  Using the stepping reflex to practice the motions of walking with a newborn can lead to voluntary walking at a younger age (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010).

Kail, R. V. & Cavanaugh, J. C. (2010). Human development: a life-span view (5th ed.). Mason, Oh: Wadsworth Cengage Learning

Cultural Influences on Infant Development Essay Paper


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