Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

The Role of Culture

What are some of the ways that cultures differ?

Grounded in our fundamental biology, much of childhood is the same across cultures. All children grow from infants to toddlers to children to adolescents. All learn to walk and talk and play and eventually to take part in the work of their society. All children develop profound emotional attachments to their family and their primary caregivers. Moreover, all children have to develop an identity within their social group and to balance self-expression with self-inhibition. Within these broad outlines, however, there are many areas for cultural differences.

While all children must learn to balance emotional expression with emotional inhibition, cultures vary widely with regard to the freedom of emotional expression. Some cultures value open expression of deeply felt emotion and others value emotional restraint, believing public displays of emotion to be vulgar. Cultures also vary widely with regard to the emphasis on dependence vs. independence, individuality vs. group orientation, and respect for authority vs. individual freedoms. Additionally different cultures have disparate views on stability versus change and religious tradition versus scientific thought. Cultures also differ with regard to the perceived value of intellectual development, of physical prowess or athleticism, and of sexual modesty. Moreover, cultures vary tremendously with regard to gender roles. Not only do different cultures vary from each other, but there is considerable variation within cultures. People within the same culture can vary because of socioeconomic class, level of education, and where they grew up. All of these factors influence the environment in which a child develops.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Psychology Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App