Grooming and cultural socialization: A mixed method study of caregiving practices in Burma (Myanmar) and the United States

Seinenu M. Thein‐Lemelson
Published Online:
19 Dec 2014
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 50 Issue 1

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Grooming behaviours are thought to be a crucial aspect of parenting and integral to the sociality of non‐human mammals, but there have been few empirical studies on how grooming might be relevant to parenting and socialization processes in humans. Study 1 is a quantitative cross‐cultural comparison of grooming practices in two cultural settings: an urban centre in Burma (Myanmar) and an urban centre in the United States. The study uses naturalistic video data of 57 families to analyse grooming behaviours directed at children. A broad range of ages was sampled in each culture to examine the developmental trajectory of grooming behaviours. Results indicate that significant cultural differences exist between Burma and the United States, with Burmese children being groomed by their caregivers more often than U.S. children. Results also indicate that cultural differences in grooming practices begin early and remain constant across age. An unexpected finding was that Burmese families were more variable in their behaviour than U.S. families. Study 2 attempts to explain this variability by using ethnography to describe how sociodemographic changes in Burma are leading to changes in parental values and socialization practices in the schools, but how embodied primary care in the homes appear resistant to change.

© 2014 The Authors. International Journal of Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of International Union of Psychological Science.