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Parental Teaching Behavior in Diverse Cultures

UR researchers observe families during mealtime and gain important insights into the transmission of cultural knowledge

8. September 2022

How do parents teach their children what is "right" or what is "wrong"? How do parents teach their children what is edible and what is not? How do they explain how to eat properly with fork or chopsticks? Prof. Dr. Dr. Moritz Köster, developmental and cognitive psychologist at the University of Regensburg, together with an international team of scientists from Great Britain, Japan and Brazil, investigated this question and investigated how parents impart cultural knowledge to their two-year-old children while eating.

For their study, the psychologists asked a total of 106 parents in rural regions of Brazil and Ecuador as well as in urban environments in Argentina, Germany, and Japan to make video recordings of joint dinners. Based on more than 8000 observations, the researchers were then able to analyze how parents in these very different places impart knowledge to their children in detail.

The researchers found that parents frequently used six ways of transmitting knowledge in the respective cultural contexts: These included, for example, requests to do or not do something; show or demonstrate something; offer choices or transmit abstract knowledge. At the same time, the researchers found that there were contextual differences in which of the six ways of imparting knowledge were preferred.

"A clear difference between the cultures we investigated was that parents in rural contexts set more rules by prompting their children to take concrete actions, while in urban contexts parents taught more abstract knowledge, demonstrated things and provided their children with choices. Especially in Germany, children were given a lot of freedom and choice," Moritz Köster summarizes and concludes: "Our study shows that differences in cultural values and norms are already reflected in the early parent-child interaction. Parents in rural contexts teach their children a sense of shared responsibility at an early age, while parents in Western, urban contexts are more likely to educate their children towards an individual and independent lifestyle. This is an important step in our understanding of the early foundations of human cultural learning."

With this and other studies at the Chair of Developmental and Cognitive Psychology at the University of Regensburg, the researchers want to find out how and when young children begin to understand and interact with the world around them. They investigate cognitive and neural mechanisms on the part of the individual and how these mechanisms interact with early learning experiences that young children make in their physical, social and cultural environment.


Moritz Köster, Marta Giner Torréns, Joscha Kärtner, Shoji Itakura, Lilia Cavalcante, Patricia Kanngiesser, Parental teaching behavior in diverse cultural contexts, Evolution and Human Behavior, 2022, ISSN 1090-5138, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2022.07.002.


Prof. Dr. Dr. Moritz Köster
Developmental and Cognitive Psychology
Institute for Psychology
University of Regensburg
Phone: +49 941 943-7683
E-Mail: Moritz.Koester@psychologie.uni-regensburg.de

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