Front cover image for The anthropology of childhood : cherubs, chattels, changelings

The anthropology of childhood : cherubs, chattels, changelings

David F. Lancy (Author)
"The study of childhood has been dominated by the field of psychology but a robust tradition in anthropology, dating at least to Mead's (1928/1961) Coming of Age in Samoa, calls attention to the culture-bound flaw in psychology. Mead's work undermined the claim by psychologist G. Stanley Hall that stress was inevitably part of adolescence. Less well known was Malinowski's earlier critique of Freud's Oedipal theory based on fieldwork in the Trobriand Islands (Malinowski 1927/2012). Universal stage theories of cognitive development, such as that of Jean Piaget, met a similar fate when cross-cultural comparative studies demonstrated profound and unpredicted influences of culture and school attendance (Greenfield 1966; Lancy and Strathern 1981; Lancy 1983). Ochs and Schieffelin's (1984) analysis of adult-child language interaction also showed that ethnographic studies in non-Western societies could be used to "de-universalize" claims made in mainstream developmental psychology. Bob LeVine has taken on one of psychology's most sacred cows, mother-infant attachment (see also Scheper-Hughes 1987a). LeVine's observations of agrarian, East African Gusii parents suggest the possibility of weak attachment and consequent blighted 28 development. He finds that, while mothers respond promptly to their infant's distress signals, they ignore other vocalizations such as babbling. They rarely look at their infants or speak to them-even while breastfeeding. Later, when they do address their children, they use commands and threats rather than praise or interrogatives (LeVine 2004: 154, 156). In spite of these obvious signs of "pathology" on the part of Gusii mothers, LeVine and his colleagues-who have been studying Gusii villagers for decades-find no evidence of widespread emotional crippling. He argues that the problem of excessive claims of universality arises from the "child development field's dual identity as an ideological advocacy movement for the humane treatment of children and a scientific research endeavor seeking knowledge and understanding" (LeVine 2004: 151)"-- Provided by publisher
Print Book, English, 2022
Third edition View all formats and editions
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 2022
Cross-cultural studies
xxi, 563 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
9781108837781, 9781108931991, 1108837786, 1108931995
Where Do Children Come From?
The Value of Children
To Make a Child
It Takes a Village
Making Sense
Of Marbles and Morals
The Chore Curriculum
Living in Limbo
Taming the Autonomous Learner
Elastic Childhood