In all cultures, parents have ideas about how children should behave and how to promote their learning and positive development. These are examples of ethnotheories: beliefs that are shared by members of a cultural group. Ethnotheories encompass a wide range of opinions about the natural, social, and supernatural worlds. Typically, they are not apparent to people who live in a given culture unless questioned or challenged. This entry explains how parents’ shared systems of meaning influence human development across the life span.

Theoretical and Research Perspectives

According to Sarah Harkness and Charles Super, ethnotheories are cultural models that provide a framework for how parents think about child development, child socialization, and family interaction. Given that these belief systems are implicit, they may be difficult for parents to ...

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