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A sociocultural comparison of Chinese children

An EU-funded study probed the development of Chinese children in the context of drastic socio-demographic change. This gives rise to new empirical knowledge about child development and child rearing practices.
A sociocultural comparison of Chinese children
The project IIDEV (The Dynamics of Independence and Interdependence in Chinese Children's Development) used a multidisciplinary method that combined anthropology and developmental psychology. Empirical knowledge based on thorough ethnographic understanding of children’s learning environments was produced and comparisons with other social and cultural environments were possible as well.

Ethnographic fieldwork and field experiments were carried out in two communities in Jiangsu, China. The focus was on seven to nine year-olds. Participant observations were conducted in the communities which had many similarities in terms of demographics and lifestyle. Yet they were also different as regards to economic class.

Initial training involved fieldwork and various facets of cooperation which were observed in comparative terms. Main findings produced from this work show that cultural, social and socioeconomic elements in children’s learning environments influenced the patterns of cooperation, inter-dependence and competitiveness.

Children from the working-class community had more opportunity to interact with peers and individuals of various ages. By contrast, the children of the middle-class community were involved in activities designed for children or under adult supervision. This showed how children from the working class community were more flexible and adaptable whereas children from middle class communities relied on adult direction in order to cooperate. Regarding competition students from the elite school relied on winning in order to have fun.

Results can pave the path for further research into a cross-cultural comparison with the UK with a focus on the dynamics between cooperation and conflict.

Related information

Keywords

Chinese children, child development, IIDEV, child rearing practices, anthropology, developmental psychology
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