Clinical Issues: Caregiver Interaction Style This article addresses cultural differences in caregiver-child interaction and the importance of assessing these interactions when evaluating children’s language development. The following issues are considered: (a) how caregiver behaviors vary across cultures, (b) how these differences may affect language learning in children, and (c) reasons why caregivers may interact differently. ... Clinical Issues
Clinical Issues  |   July 01, 2004
Clinical Issues: Caregiver Interaction Style
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Debra C. Vigil
    University of Nevada, Reno
  • Carol E. Westby
    University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
Article Information
Development / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Professional Issues & Training / Clinical Issues
Clinical Issues   |   July 01, 2004
Clinical Issues: Caregiver Interaction Style
SIG 1 Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, July 2004, Vol. 11, 10-15. doi:10.1044/lle11.2.10
SIG 1 Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, July 2004, Vol. 11, 10-15. doi:10.1044/lle11.2.10
This article addresses cultural differences in caregiver-child interaction and the importance of assessing these interactions when evaluating children’s language development. The following issues are considered: (a) how caregiver behaviors vary across cultures, (b) how these differences may affect language learning in children, and (c) reasons why caregivers may interact differently. A protocol is provided that can be used to evaluate the nature of caregiver-child interactions. The information gained from such an evaluation can be used to facilitate the development of culturally sensitive intervention plans.
Research on mother-child interaction in middle-class European American populations shows an emphasis on (a) following a child’s lead and describing what the child sees, (b) expressing short utterances and less complex sentences, (c) engaging the child in conversation, and (d) encouraging exploration during play (Farver, 1993; Nelson, 1973; Newport, Gleitman, & Gleitman, 1977; Snow, 1977; Tomasello & Farrar, 1986). Researchers have found that caregivers from other cultures do not always engage in these behaviors (Heath, 1983; Rogoff, Mistry, Goncu, & Moiser, 1993; Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986). For example, Bornstein, Toda, Azuma, Tamis-LeMonda, and Ogino (1990)  compared American and Japanese mothers interacting with their 5-month-old infants and found that American mothers physically encouraged their infants to attend to the environment and responded to their infant’s looking at the environment. In contrast, Japanese mothers physically encouraged their infants’ attention to themselves and shifted the infant’s attention away from the environment. The researchers concluded that Japanese mothers directed infant focus to themselves, whereas American mothers responded to the infant’s interest in an object or event. They suggested that these styles appear to fit cultural goals in that Americans foster exploratory activities and initiative in their children, and the Japanese emphasize the channeling of “children’s activities in the interpersonal realm” (Bornstein et al., 1990, p. 303).
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