Segall, Dasen, Berry, & Poortinga (1990). The Developmental Niche.

Segall, M. H., Dasen, P. R., Berry, J. W., & Poortinga, Y. H. (Eds.). (1990). The Developmental Niche. In Human behavior in global perspective: an introduction to cross-cultural psychology (pp. 113–139). Allyn and Bacon.

[From Table of Contents:…]

  • Chapter 6: The Developmental Niche (p 113)
    • Why Study Developmental Psychology Cross-Culturally? (p 113)
    • The Developmental Niche (p 114)
      • Children’s Everyday Activities (p 116)
      • Play Time and Work Time (p 117)
      • Play (p 121)
    • Informal Education (p 124)
      • The Transmission of Know-How (p 128)
      • Schooling or Apprenticeship by Experience: A Few Occupations in Europe (p 132)
    • Formal Aspects of Traditional Education (p 135)
    • Conclusions (p 139)

“The developmental niche has three components: (1) the physical and social contexts in which the child lives, (2) the culturally determined rearing and educational practices; and (3) the psychological characteristics of the parents.” (p 114)

“Real-world observation and ethnographic description may be distorted by the observer’s expectations. Thus, it is well to develop precise and, if possible, quantitative measurement techniques.” (p 116)

“… continuous observation …” (p 116)

“… spot observations …” (p 116)

“Thus, spot observation is a less reactive type of measurement.” (p 117)

[Heading: “Play Time and Work Time” (p 117)]

“In a multivariate analysis of observed social behavior of the children of six cultures, (Whiting & Whiting, 1975), a dimension that emerged ranged from ‘nurturant-responsible’ to ‘dependent-dominant.’ Those children who did more work were closer to the ‘nurturant-responsible’ end, often offered affection or assistance, and made altruistic suggestions. In contrast, those at the ‘dependent-dominant’ end sought attention or assistance and tended to make selfish suggestions.” (p 120)

“Under the pressure of social change, traditional games have a tendency to disappear and to be replaced by television and commercially manufactured toys.” (p 121)


[According to Sutton-Smith and Roberts (1981)…]

“They further distinguish between three types of games: (1) games of physical skill (e.g., racing, dart throwing), (2) games of chance (outcome determined by a guess or a random event, e.g. roulette), and (3) games of strategy (outcome determined by rational choices).” (p 121)

“Games of skill are found in all societies. Games of chance, on the other hand, are frequent in societies where economic or social uncertainty prevails, in particular in nomadic hunter-gatherer societies. Chance games are usually absent or even forbidden in sedentary agricultural or animal husbandry societies, where socialization is more authoritarian. In these societies, games of strategy prevail that demand conformity to rules and planning, values that are certainly important in societies practicing agriculture or animal husbandry or both (Roberts & Barry, 1976).” (p 121)


“Making believe permits novelty, creativity, and flexibility. It allows reversals of some power contingencies and the reversal of social control.” (p 122)

“Media-influenced social change has augmented the number of adult roles that it is possible to imitate. In industrialized societies, children tend to role-play numerous real roles (doctor, astronaut, cowboy, or Indian) or fictional ones (Superman, Goldorak, or Asterix) that re highly unlikely to have any real correspondence with future adult activities. The learning of a large number of potential roles and learning to deal with unexpected novelty probably stimulates flexibility, an important characteristic in societies undergoing rapid change.” (p 122)

“In technologically developed societies, the toy-making industry tends to mass-produce single-purpose objects. These prepare the child to become a consumer and encourage possession, enhancing the importance of ‘to have’ as opposed to ‘to do.'” (p 123)

“This implies that poor performance on a particular task does not necessarily indicate the absence of the cognitive capacity that the task purports to measure. As will be illustrated in the next chapter, it is quite possible for a capacity to exist but to be difficult to express in particular contexts.” (p 124)

“… enculturation refers to all those influences (of which we are usually unaware) that reduce the range of likely behaviors to those that are culturally acceptable in each society. Socialization refers to the explicit selection of behaviors approved of by the society’s members.” (p 124)

[Discussion of “precolonial education,” “traditional education,” “traditional teaching,” and “reformed teaching.” (p 125)]

“Traditional education should not be confused with ‘traditional teaching,’ which refers to a Western type of schooling employing more or less archaic pedagogical methods. This kind of teaching, spread by European colonial conquests and fueled by the zeal of Christian missionaries, still predominates in a number of countries.” (p 125)

“Traditional education, in contrast with traditional teaching, is in essence adapted to the local cultural system, which it tends to perpetuate.” (p 125)

“Chamoux (1985, 1986) contrasts this with school-based teaching, which she likens to the behavior of a theatre company, ‘hiding its backstage, keeping its rehearsals closed, and thus maintaining its `magic` and its power over its audience, the learners’ (Chamoux, 1986, p. 215)” (p 131)

“Wagner (1988b) characterizes formal traditional education as follows: … 5. The pupils are not grouped into classes by age. They progress through stages as a function of what they already know. There is no concept of academic failure.” (p 136)

Selected references

  • Chamoux, M. N. (1986). Apprendre autrement: Aspects de pédagogies dites informelles chez les Indiens du Mexique. [To learn differently: Aspects of so-called informal education among Mexican indians.] In P. Rossel (Ed.), Demain l’artisanat? [Arts and crafts tomorrow.] (pp 213-335). Paris: Presses Univiversitaires de France.
  • Roberts, J. M., & Barry, H., III. (1976). Inculcated traits and games type combinations: A cross-cultural view. In T. T. Craig (Ed.), The humanistic and mental health aspects of sports, exercise and recreation (pp 5-11). Chicago: American Medical Association.
  • Sutton-Smith, B., & Roberts, J. M. (1981). Play, toys, games, and sports. In H. C. Triandis & A. Heron (Eds.), Handbook of cross-cultural psychology: Vol. 4 Developmental psychology (pp. 425-471). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  • Wagner, D. A. (1988). L’acquisition du savoir et le “par coeur”: Passé et présent. [The acquisition of knowledge and rote learning: Past and present.] In R. Bureau & D. de Saivre (Eds.), Apprentissage et cultures. [Cultures and learning.] (pp. 169-175). Paris: Karthal.
  • Whiting, B. B., & Whiting, J. W. M. (1975). Children of six cultures: A psycho-cultural analysis. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
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