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 Post subject: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 11:53 pm 
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A friend linked me to this article, and I was surprised to find another friend's research team heavily cited in it. There's some cross-cultural comparison of US to other cultures' child-rearing practices (pretty much in the biggest way possible: US vs. hunter gatherers vs. Parisiens), and a fair amount of discussion comparing contemporary vs. previous US practices.

In my friend's data, and in this article, the striking difference between "typical" US dinners and "typical" French dinners is astounding. It reminded me a bit of the difference my family I often note between "yoga babies" (and vegan babies!) and "typical" kids, which I think means more of an emphasis on self responsibility/development and less of the top-down-materialistic-blah culture described in the "typical" US families.

I don't think that dinner data is showcased very well, so here's the bottom line: In France, families eat together. It's always a full meal (multiple courses; very little dessert), and the kids help with food and table prep. as well as cleaning. They talk about their days and, very interestingly!, there's a lot of detailed talk about the food and the palate and how flavors relate to each other. In the US, there are very few family dinners - often its the kids vs. the adults, or 1 person at a time. Kids might help set the table, but are rarely involved in food prep. or cleaning. And there's almost no discussion at dinner (eat fast and run! or better yet, let's all watch tv! yeah!), especially not of flavors.

So - the anthropology of childhood. Super interesting.

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/b ... ntPage=all

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 Post subject: Re: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 12:16 am 
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We're in between, I guess. We always eat together. Not multiple courses (!), but multiple things served. We talk about our day. But GG rarely helps at all with food prep, and his clean-up help is minimal.

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 Post subject: Re: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 12:35 am 
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You're already ahead of the game if you always eat together!

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 Post subject: Re: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 12:53 am 
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My childhood would have been much happier had we all eaten alone.

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 Post subject: Re: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 2:42 am 
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Before my parents split up in 4th grade we always ate meals together. After the split, my dad cooked us chicken, rice (with raisins, yuck) and steamed veggies pretty much every night for nearly two years (with exceptions when we ordered pizza or went out to eat, once or twice a week). My sister was a vegetarian then. After she got tired of eating rice and veggies, we started fending for ourselves. She is 11 months older than me and cooked for me a lot of the time. I just read Bringing Up Bebe and it hit on the way the French try to raise their kids to eat the same food as the adults from an early age. It was interesting.

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 Post subject: Re: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 3:42 am 
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I feel like that article moves beyond just the food and dinner data. There does seem to be an overall learned helplessness in middle/upper class kids in the US. It was interesting to read that more than worrying about the work of college, students these days are worrying about how to do life functions when they leave home. I'd love to see some studies done on students and parental over involvement. It is fascinating to see how some are given so much and yet really oblivious to it all and how fear is such a motivating factor in the US.
Simple things like telling a child no and meaning it are mentioned in a couple of articles I have read recently that seem so simple but not really in practice for the US.

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Last edited by pandacookie on Wed Jun 27, 2012 3:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 3:52 am 
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Yeah! Good points panda. I'm totally fascinated by it. "Life functions" is particularly interesting considering the article talks about 20-somethings in NY vs. 6 year olds in the jungle. I'm completely blown away by how amazingly diverse our species & its subcultures are (and totally baffled that despite all of the tech, there's still so much that "doesn't work" in our culture).

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 Post subject: Re: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:16 am 
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Kids in the US are also not allowed to fail in any way, especially that middle/upper class demographic they are talking about in that article. There is such a strong push there for college and Achievement no matter what skills or interest may or may not be there. It would be so interesting to see some of those books that are all focused on the upper class take a look at kids in the lower class in the US and how they cope and deal with different upbringings/priorities/etc. There's a great deal of importance placed on book learning for those writing these books, but when it comes to those' life functions', which are apparently given not much weight, I wonder who is actually more adept.
I had to laugh at the boy moving into an apartment in...Carroll Gardens.

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 Post subject: Re: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:19 am 
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I'd also be interested in books like that, panda. But I don't see them making the NYT bestseller list in the same way that French/US Bebe book did...

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 Post subject: Re: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 5:09 am 
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Nor would those authors get a book deal, I suspect.

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 Post subject: Re: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 5:11 am 
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Feh.

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 Post subject: Re: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:07 am 
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What panda said.
I find articles about parenting in New Yorker, Times, etc, tend to focus on the authors peer group. I don't know that the learned helplessness is so bad when you go down the SES ladder.
The hypercompetitiveness and fear in upper middle class professional urban culture drives this. If your high schooler needs to take 6 APs, play a sport, violin, volunteer, etc, they might be out of the house the same amount as a full time job. I teach at a competitive gifted program and the kids talk about getting 3, 4 hours sleep a night, up at 5 to get the subway to school. When we get to the unit on chores (I teach Spanish) a lot do none, at all. And it makes sense--you see your kids exhausted. Kids tell me their parents tell them their job is to be a student and get into a good college. The idea is year is high school is short, you can always learn to wash dishes, have family meals. I can sympathize, but it isn't the family life I'd want. The all or nothing is so depressing--kids act as if it's top tier college or living in a box under a bridge. And end up really unbalanced.
But, I don't think this is a universal US kid experience, just the one of the people who write the books.
At the same school the kids in the neighborhood program are more likely to care for their younger siblings, be involved in church, wash dishes, get themselves around. I'd also like to see some studies with working class kids in the US. I think competence is still prized.


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 Post subject: Re: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:16 am 
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The competitiveness is kinda crazy in the US. Grey is not a year and a lot of his friends are already being pushed into things or I see their moms trying to compete. I will admit that sometimes it is hard to not fall into the trap. Grey is getting close to walking and some people keep commenting on how I must be so excited, I am not. Walking means running means I no longer get to sit back and watch him at the park, but now I will have to make sure he doesn't run out into traffic.

Anyway, my real point is that as a middle class person I already feel the pressure to have a smart/athletic/handsome child. It's pretty ridiculous. I am really trying to find balance even now.

I haven't read the new Yorker article yet, I am about to, but I am really tired of articles, books, etc talking about how lacking Americans are and how awesome every other culture is. I don't think we are all awesome or anything even close to that, but I don't think any culture is perfect.

One other thing that I am noticing being a mom, I am really really trying to let Grey discover and play on his own. I don't want to hover all the time because I think it's really important for him to figure things out on his own and to have time to himself. I also let him wander a bit at the park, he is within eyesight, but I let him explore.


Last edited by littlebear on Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:19 am 
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My $0.02 are that the article, and the research it cites (which I know of, independently) don't judge one way or the other. They're just trying to document what the differences are. And, oh man. Reading what you said about Grey stresses *me* out (and I'm not even a mom!).

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 Post subject: Re: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 10:01 am 
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What Friday said. I work in a middle/upper class area with kids and these kids do EVERYTHING. So what if they don't do chores - they work hard and are as stressed as their parents. On top of all the academics and sports that they "have" to do to survive the competition to get to college, many of them do incredible amounts of community service both out of love of the work and fear that their peers are doing even more. These kids ain't lazy, nor are they vapid.

I would be really interested in comparing groups with more realistically in common - the jungle kid hanging on one season at a time is much more analogous to the kids growing up in poverty in the US, who are expected to take on huge amounts of adult-like family responsibilities, including curtailing their own educations to help their parents make ends meet, taking care of younger siblings, cooking and cleaning, etc.

And building on what littlebear said: I just have limited giving-a-shit capacity for what the French do to raise their kids and I'm a little sick of hearing about it. I don't live in France. I don't have time to make three-course meals. I barely have time to boil spaghetti. That doesn't make me a bad parent and that doesn't make my culture any less worthy. The peers I graduated high school with are doing amazing things, building families, living joyful lives. Playing video games, doing a few fewer chores, or living at home for a couple years after college did not hold them back from doing those things.

This book seems more entertaining: http://www.amazon.com/Eskimos-Keep-Thei ... abies+warm


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 Post subject: Re: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 11:32 am 
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hoveringdog™ wrote:
My childhood would have been much happier had we all eaten alone.


Mine too. I don't blame the dining together thing though, my family had plenty of drama... It just all comes to a head when you make people who are already mad/whatever at each other sit down together for 30 minutes.

That said, as a grownup, my family always has dinner together. We talk about the food/our days/whatever. The Emperor actually helps with dinner a lot, though he doesn't help clean up usually. (Well, he's 2.5 guys.) I have heard it's a lot harder to maintain when your kids get older and have after school activities, etc, but it's my favorite time of day so I hope it keeps going for us.

Looking forward to reading the rest of the article.

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 Post subject: Re: New Yorker: The Anthropology of Childhood.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 11:41 am 
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Interesting article. I've got that Bringing Up Bebe book on hold at my library (though I'm like #70 in line!), because I think the different little ways other cultures parent are really fascinating.

We eat dinners at home together most nights, and LittleBodhi doesn't really help yet, but I think I'll have to get over it taking longer by letting him learn to help. He does usually clear his own dishes though. I'd like to see him become a bit more independent though - he knows how to help with laundry, and our machine is very easy to use, so I think he'll be in charge of getting his laundry done pretty soon.

Ariann - I have that book How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm. It's filled with short chapters about cultural differences in parenting. I found it super entertaining and interesting to see what things we consider odd are sometimes totally normal elsewhere. PM me if you'd like it! It's a good one-time read, so I'm ready to pass it on to someone else!

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