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Child development in less “WEIRD” places

Professor Tom Weisner is an anthropologist who has studied societies all over the world. Most of the world’s children grow up in developing countries which are less “WEIRD” than the developed ones. What can we learn about child development in less “WEIRD” places?

The most important thing is where in the world a child is growing up … what context, what family, what neighborhood, what community, what nation state will determine that child’s life pathways?

Prof Tom Weisner

“WEIRD” is a short way to describe where a minority (12%) of the world lives: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic. WEIRD researchers do most research on WEIRD people. What about the rest of the world where 88% of the world live and where there’s much less research?

WEIRD people leave the context out and think of kids more as autonomous individuals. WEIRD researchers do the same.

For the rest of the world, children absorb the importance of social responsibility, collaborative learning and social intelligence from the cultures they live in.

How do kids grow up in less “WEIRD” places?

A community of care

Lots of different people may raise the children. Kids are more likely to grow up in large extended families. The children’s attachments are secure but to a wider group of family and carers. They’re likely to be part of a community of care.

School children in Kenya collect firewood to take round for the funeral of a bereaved classmate’s parent.

As they grow older, girls lives diverge more from the boys. Young adults have to accept institutions like arranged marriage and inheritance.

Many children live in harsh conditions of poverty and oppression. Lives can be short so the wider community of care is important. But single carer families may face isolation.

A child’s development and well-being depends on their ability to participate in the activities their society values … If we think about the context around the child and around the world, we will do much better at improving the lives of children everywhere.