Select Page

Week 4: Human Development and Socialization Across Cultures

Think about the expectations you have developed for how a family should function. For example:

  • Were you expected to work at a certain age and would you expect the same of your children?
  • Was there an age that signified your passage from childhood to adulthood? If so, did you celebrate with a particular rite or event? Would you want your children to do the same?
  • Do you expect children to sleep with their parents when they are young or to sleep in a separate bedroom?
  • Do you expect grandparents to advise the younger generation or to remain in the background of family decision making?

Expectations are generally shaped by how you are socialized by your family and culture. Consequently, people from other backgrounds may have very different expectations. We tend to view issues related to parenting and family systems in terms of “right” and “wrong,” yet there are few such hard and fast rules. What is “normal” or “acceptable” within a family varies naturally and is largely based on culture.

Coming to that understanding is another step toward greater cultural sensitivity and critical thinking. In Week 4, you will explore similarities and differences in human development and socialization from a cross-cultural perspective.

Note: Watch for “Just in Time” links for the Learning Resources, Discussion, and/or Assignment this week. When you see a “Just in Time” link, hover to get helpful tips or other guidance for completing your best coursework.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Apply theories of human development across cultures
  • Compare views of parenting across cultures
  • Apply the concepts of individualism and collectivism to family dynamics
  • Apply concepts of cross-cultural psychology
  • Demonstrate an understanding of human development and socialization across cultures

Discussion: Developmental Theories

Cultures have a wide variety of views on development. For instance, while adolescence is an important phase in Western cultures, many other cultures do not identify such a period in life. One is a child and then an adult. But as one Western example, in the United States, it is common to refer to children at various ages and stages as infants, toddlers, preschoolers, preteens (“tweens”), teenagers, and young adults. Would every culture understand these terms and agree with the definitions? Clearly, the answer is no. U.S. culture also has expectations regarding when a child is ready to have a job, mature enough to marry, or responsible enough to vote. These expectations also do not always carry over into other cultures.

Over the course of history, many psychologies have attempted to describe various aspects of development as accurately as possible. However, much of the research came from Western scientists studying the growth of children in Western settings. Advocates claim that these theories are universal, while detractors claim they only describe Western development.

This week you will have the opportunity to study theories developed by some of the most prominent researchers in the field of Psychology. Erik Erikson attempted to describe social development, Jean Piaget cognitive development, and Lawrence Kohlberg moral development.  You will have to consider the evidence and decide how applicable these theories are in cultures around the world.

To prepare:

  • Review the Week 4 Learning Resources. Pay particular attention to Chapter 8 in your course text and the three required readings on “Cognitive Development,” “Social Development,” and “Stages of Moral Development.
  • Consider how well Erikson’s, Piaget’s, and Kohlberg’s theories apply across cultures.
  • Think about the following: In what ways are these theories accurate? Where do they fall short? What adjustments might make these theories more universally appropriate?

Just like last week, our goal is to generate conversation. Post one question to the discussion and respond to at least two questions (or responses) posed by your peers.

By Day 3

Post your one question with background to the discussion board.

Put your question in the subject line of your post and put your supporting text in the message area of the post.

Discussion Tips:

  • Questions published earlier in the week get more responses.
  • Support your question with at least one reference (textbook or other scholarly, empirical resources) in the message body.
By Day 5

Respond to at least two peers’ main questions (or their response). Colleague replies do not need to be supported by a reference.

Required Readings

Shiraev, E. B., & Levy, D. A. (2017). Cross-cultural psychology: Critical thinking and contemporary applications (6th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.
Review Chapter 1, “Understanding Cross-Cultural Psychology” (pp. 1–26)
Chapter 8, “Human Development and Socialization” (pp. 222–248)

Review Chapter 1 for concepts of culture, society, race, and ethnicity, cross-cultural psychology, and major theoretical approaches to examining human activities. Chapter 8 presents theories of cognitive, moral, and psychosocial development and analyzes different periods of human development, parenting styles, and socialization. Note that your Week 4 Test for Understanding is based on these two chapters, with a primary emphasis on Chapter 8.

Harris, Y. R. (2005). Cognitive development. In N. J. Salkind (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

This seminal resource provides an overview of Piaget’s stages of cognitive development theory.

Sanders, C. E. (2005). Stages of moral development. In N. J. Salkind (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

This entry presents Kohlberg’s theory on stages of moral development.

Susskind, J. (2005). Social development. In N. J. Salkind (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

The article discusses parenting styles and Erikson’s theory on social development.

Required Media

Laureate Education (Producer). (2013d). Alien diary 4: Human development and socialization across cultures [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Note: The approximate length of this media piece is 1 minute.

View this media piece of an “alien visitor to Earth” for an introduction to the week’s topics.

Document: Alien diary 4: Human development and socialization across cultures Transcript (PDF)

Optional Resources

Delaney, C. H. (1995). Rites of passage in adolescence. Adolescence30(120), 891–897. Retrieved from