Doucet and Tudge
American mothers of preschoolers to illuminate why Chinese children seemed to perform so well in school considering that, according to research, “authoritarian” parenting leads to ne- gative outcomes, including poor academic achievement, and that traditionally Chinese parents have been identified as authoritarian. Challenging the description of Chinese parenting as “controlling,” Chao argued that the Chinese concept for what researchers have described as “authoritarian” parenting includes the notion of “training”—an important distinction.
In terms of practices related to schooling, Gallimore and Goldenberg (2001) found that immigrant parents of Hispanic origin rarely engaged their children in reading before the age of 5 because it was not believed that children had reached the “age of reason” before that time. Instead, parents focused on their children’s moral development and the develop- ment of good social skills (such as politeness), which, from these parents’ frame of reference, were important even for the youngest of children. Along similar lines, Doucet (2000) found that African American parents framed preparation for the transition to school more broadly as preparation for the real world and thus highlighted skills that would serve children in this comprehensive endeavor. For these parents, children’s ability to take care of themselves (from physical self-care to knowledge of basic safety), to demonstrate curiosity and intelli- gence, to display social competence (good manners, kindness), and to negotiate race rela- tions were just as important for being prepared to go to school as were basic skills in literacy and numeracy.
Tudge and colleagues (Tudge & Doucet, 2004; Tudge, Odero, Hogan, & Etz, 2003; Tudge, Tammeveski, Meltsas, Kulakova, & Snezhkova, 2001) have approached the issue of the links, if any, between the preschool years and what happens after children enter formal schooling from the perspective of the regularly occurring activities and interac- tions in which young children from a variety of different cultural contexts are involved. Working from a theoretical framework that views the intersection of culture and every- day practices as key to development, Tudge et al. conducted ethnographic observations of how and with whom young children spent their time. Tudge et al. also interviewed the children’s parents to understand, among other things, their values and beliefs. The children were observed and the parents were interviewed when the children were be- tween 3 and 4 years of age, and more data (interviews and questionnaires) were gathered during the first few years the children were in school. Data using the same methodology have been gathered from a single city in each of Russia, Estonia, Finland, Korea, Kenya, and Brazil, as well as in the United States with equal numbers of European American and African American families (Tudge, 2005). In each city, equal numbers of middle- class and working-class families were recruited, with class membership being determined by education and occupation criteria.
This study reveals that children in different cultural communities engage in different types of activities. For example, in the U.S. sample, and just focusing on those activities that Tudge and colleagues felt might be relevant to school, middle-class White children were far more likely than their working-class peers to be involved in activities involving verbal in- teraction with adults. This was true of conversation (defined as the more cognitively so- phisticated talk about the past or future) or the exchange of information (i.e., lessons) about literacy, numeracy, or about the world in general (whether specific skills or about nature). In Black communities, the differences between the social-class groups were not as marked, although middle-class children were more likely than their working-class counterparts to be involved in more discussions about literacy, numeracy, and the world. However, children