Cross-cultural variation in maternal attention during parent-child interactions

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Green Bay: One of the most commonly used ways of interacting, other than verbally, with young children is through the use of social cues (such as gaze and joint attention). A new study has focused on how caregiver-child interactions differ across cultural groups beyond infancy.
The study, published in ‘Child Development’, by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Waseda University, examined caregiver-child interaction in the United States and Japan to link the experiences of learning and specific changes in cognitive development in preschool children. children.

Using the eye-tracking paradigm, the study found that children in the United States and Japan looked at images similarly by focusing on objects before they interacted with their mothers. However, mothers in these two countries directed their children’s attention differently, and Japanese children shifted their attention to become more contextually aware after interacting with their mother. These results provide new insights into the role of social interaction and cultural diversity in the development of attention.

“Comparing caregiver-child interactions in the United States and Japan allowed testing of similar cultural groups in terms of economics, education, and technology while having different cultural values,” said Sawa Senzaki, professor professor of psychology and director of the Child’s Lab. at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. “We targeted preschoolers because they are unlikely to exhibit culturally unique patterns of attention without parental influence. This study was the first to demonstrate changes in attention in children measured directly via eye tracking before and after engaging in social interaction with caregivers across cultures. The study included sixty 3- to 4-year-old children and their mothers in the United States and Japan.

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The majority of participating mothers earned at least an associate’s degree. Based on parent reports, all American children and mothers identified as White/European American were born in the United States and spoke English as their first language. All Japanese children and mothers were born in Japan and spoke Japanese as their first language.

Children were instructed to engage in a scene description task while viewing cartoon images of a rabbit in a background, such as a farm or field, on a laptop under three conditions: independently, in conjunction with their mother, then again independently. During the independent scene description task, children’s gaze fixation was recorded via an eye tracker.

Verbal descriptions of children and mothers were coded separately through object-oriented discourse (focal objects and their characteristics) and social relations discourse (e.g., “The rabbit wants to play with the bees” and “Birds say hello to the bunny” instead of “There are butterflies and a bunny.”) Results showed that mothers in the United States directed their children’s attention to focal objects (such as ” There are butterflies and a rabbit”) at a higher rate than Japanese mothers while Japanese mothers mothers drew children’s attention more to the social relationships between objects (such as “The rabbit wants to play with bees ”) than American mothers.

“Previous research tells us that children tend to focus more on main objects and ignore the background of a scene,” said Yuki Shimizu, a professor in the Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Sciences. and Director of the Cognitive and Cultural Laboratory at Waseda University. “However, our study suggests that mothers’ social relationship-focused talk plays an important role in attentional processes that may vary across cultures. This type of research shows that daily socialization in childhood initiates attentional processes and learning that can have lasting effects on cognitive development and learning.

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