79 15.6: Socialization in Two Cultures

The widespread use of outside-the home group and family care signifies that, for the first time in human history, the family—nuclear and extended—is no longer the only primary child-rearing environment of young children. This means that in the earliest years, hundreds of thousands of children experience two differing cultural contexts every day—that of the family and that of early care and education. Thus, the cultural continuity, the consistency of cultural practices, in child rearing is disrupted.

Paying attention to cultural continuity and cultural discontinuity between home and early childhood education programs is a central issue in a culturally responsive approach. Where a child’s experiences fall on the continuity-discontinuity continuum depends on the degree of similarity or difference between the specific cultural dynamics of their family and those of the early childhood program. These include fundamentals such as furniture, equipment, spatial organization, care procedures, language, and how staff members interact with the children and each other. Some children experience a high degree of continuity, while others experience a high degree of discontinuity. The more discontinuity children face, the more they find that what they are learning in their family about how to be in the world does not work for them in the care and education program.

Discontinuity between very young children’s two primary socialization environments may have negative effects on children. The degree of familiarity or unfamiliarity with a program’s care practices makes it easier or harder for children to adjust, to build strong relationships, to act and feel competent, and to feel secure. It is also known that a primary source of a child’s sense of belonging, security, and empowerment in an early childhood education program comes from as much continuity as possible with what children experience in their home culture.
Two women looking at a girl toddler than one of the women is holding.
Figure 15.8: Continuity between the home culture and ECE program is important. [251]

Young children thrive when an early childhood program respects and integrates their home languages and cultures into all of its operations. In such programs, children can learn and develop because they feel “supported, nurtured, and connected not only to their home communities and families but also to teachers and the educational setting” (NAEYC 1995, 2). In sum, when a child’s home culture (including language) differs significantly from the culture of her/his childcare program, she does not have the opportunity to thrive. [252]


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