Parental socialization goals, regarding their children’s development, have gained a growing interest among researchers (Carra, Lavelli, Keller, & Kärtner, 2013; Kärtner, Keller, & Chaudhary, 2010; Keller & Kärtner, 2013; Ng, Tamis-LeMonda, Godfrey, Hunter, & Yoshikawa, 2012), who seek to comprehend the influence of socialization goals and parenting practices on a child’s developmental trajectory.
According to Keller, Lamm, Abels, Yovsi, Borke, & Jensen (2006) and Keller (2007), assumptions, socialization goals, and parenting experiences with primary caregivers are informed by features of the sociocultural context where they emerged and influence early child development. This study searches for differences between socialization goals and variables that describe the sociocultural context in which parents and their offspring live together. In other words and based on this basic premises (Keller, 2007; Keller et al., 2006), it is here assumed that socialization goals and parenting practices are closely tied to directions, child development might follow. Specifically, how far such goals and practices may affect patterns and frequency of child behaviors, is the main objective of this investigation.
Parental socialization has been researched systematically in many countries, with a literature replete of parenting beliefs and practices, as well as developmental paths (Jaramillo, 2012). Along these lines, Durgel, Leyendecker, Yagmurlu, and Harwood (2009) conducted their experiments, focusing on (a) exploring differences and similarities between the long-term socialization goals of German mothers and Turkish immigrant mothers living in Germany, and (b) analyzing the relationship between socialization goals of Turkish immigrant mothers’ and their cultural attitudes. All observed women, divided in two main groups, lived with their preschool kids in Germany. First group comprehended 79 mothers of Turkish ascendance, or that had migrated to Germany at a later age. The other group consisted of 91 German mothers. Turkish ascendance mothers exhibited more expectations from their children in maintaining close family ties and were less inclined to encourage autonomy than German mothers. Nevertheless, different situations were also verified. Turkish mothers who sympathized and were integrated into German culture emphasized individualistic ambitions (such as self-control), more often than a traditional/conventional Turkish woman.
This research relates to theoretical issues raised by Harkness and Super (1994) when they presented the Developmental Niche concept, whose preludes focus on a child’s relationship with the environment she/he is reared, educated, and protected, whether by the parents or other caregivers. According to Harkness and Super (1994), there is a complex structural model, with three subsystems in constant motion and interaction: the physical and social environment the child lives in (i.e., the family structure and form of social organization); parenting and schooling practices culturally imposed and regulated (intergenerational relations); and psychological traits of caregivers, comprising parental ethnotheories, which would include child-related beliefs and values, parenting goals, and strategies.
In this respect, analyzing parents and their beliefs can be viewed as an effective way of gaining access to various cultural models or their developmental implications. Thereby, it enriches our comprehension of mutual relationships between cultures and individuals (Macarini, Martins, Minetto, & Vieira, 2010). As conducted by Keller et al. (2006) and Keller (2007), researches concerned to mothers in various socioeconomic and cultural contexts (German, Euro-American, Greek, Indian, Chinese, Mexican, and Costa Rican) proposed three general models of parenting beliefs and values: autonomous, relational, and autonomous-relational. The first model relates to a unique and distinct self, prioritizing personal aspirations and autonomy, with beliefs developing for an autonomous self, whereby socialization goals are generally focused on self-realization and independence. The second model can be found in collectivist cultures, such as rural settings with a subsistence economy. It involves developing a self-linked to other individuals, viz., a self directly tied to the group he/she belongs. Here, socialization goals involve compliance with social norms, obedience, as well as acceptance of roles and hierarchies. In summary, the development of an interdependent self. The last model was described by Kağitçibaşi (1996), as a perspective that combines characteristics of first two models. This kind of cultural tendency involves both autonomy and interrelatedness, whereby the self is characterized as both autonomous, regarded to someone’s actions, and related, in terms of interpersonal distance (Keller, 2012; Keller et al., 2006; Lordelo, Roethle, & Mochizuki, 2012; Mendes & Cavalcante, 2014).
The difference between models that combine diverse tendencies has elicited the interest of many present-day researchers, along an empirical approach over importance of the context, comprehending one’s origins and their implications in child development. Research in this direction has been conducted on various cultures (Carra et al., 2013; Durgel et al., 2009; Harkness & Super, 1992; Ng et al., 2012) and socioeconomic contexts (Keller, 2007; Keller et al., 2006; Lordelo et al., 2012).
This paper attributes special attention to the second pattern of general trends, or interdependent model. Main features of this model are heteronomy and interrelationships, facets of a prototypical relational context characterized by subsistence agriculture, obedient behavior, and interpersonal compliance (Köster, Cavalcante, Carvalho, Resende, & Kärtner, 2016). Responsibilities are primary socialization goals (SGs), perceived as key indicators of social competence and optimal development. In these contexts, young children normally engage in daily tasks since an early age and, as they grow, more demanding tasks are assigned, such as taking care of younger siblings and housework. Many authors of behavior describe socialization via responsibility and involvement in household chores as a basis for prosocial conduct (Köster et al., 2016; Lancy, 2012; Ochs & Izquierdo, 2009).
Rural environments preserve traditional parenting practices, whereby mothers generally are the primary caregiver. Considering that, motherhood entails willingness to learn how to competently care of children, offer them love and affection, and to provide them with opportunities for their development. Regarding child socialization in relational contexts, mothers value mostly good manners and adaptation to social expectations, reaffirming respect and cooperation as important features for the social context and fulfillment of obligations, especially when these tasks are established within the family environment (Macarini, Martins, Sachetti, & Vieira, 2009).
Apart from children caring, mothers are also responsible for household chores, whereas men generally work outside home, caring for the family’s income (Ruela & Seidl-de-Moura, 2007). With so many responsibilities, mothers involve their children in household chores, encourage them, for example, to help with domestic issues, affording mothers a key role in developing prosocial motivation and conduct (Ochs & Izquierdo, 2009). This way, they reinforce involvement of their children in tasks, aimed the wellbeing of the other household members.
According to Keller (2012), from an early age (around 3–4 years), children that reside in a rural setting aid with household chores such as cleaning, fetching water and sticks, assistance in family business (for example, selling farm products or homemade foods), and babysitting younger siblings or other relatives. Following this theoretical assumption, a series of empirical studies have demonstrated that even very young kids exhibit enthusiasm to helping matters, providing/sharing available resources or information, even to strangers or individuals from whom these children receive no direct benefits (Costa & Cavalcante, 2012; Warneken, Hare, Melis, Hanus, & Tomasello, 2007; Warneken & Tomasello, 2006; Warneken & Tomasello, 2009).
Warneken and Tomasello (2009), regarding circumstances in which an adult inadvertently drops an object, e.g., a pen, reveal the same general tendency among children: they pick up the object after it falls on the floor. According to same authors (2006; 2007), children aged around 14 months start helping others in these circumstances, and such behaviors become increasingly frequent and sophisticated over time (i.e., they offer assistance in such situations and in other, more complex tasks).
Moreover, these researchers consider helping others as an extremely interesting phenomenon, in both cognitive and motivational sense. For cognitive terms, it is presumed that, to assist somebody, his/her intended objective and existing impediments to achieve it must be known by anyone who aims to help. Nonetheless, this can also be viewed in motivational terms, through the extent of efforts people apply to help others, even when there are no immediate gains for themselves. Therefore, it is inferred by the social interaction view (Dahl, 2015; Köster et al., 2016; Köster, Schuhmacher, & Kärtner, 2015) that natural proclivities to help are influenced by the social environment in which they occur.
There is now experimental evidence that infants understand individual needs, when they start to help others (Köster, Ohmer, Nguyen, & Kärtner, 2016) and also that their motivation to help is influenced by the way parents demonstrate helping behavior (Dahl et al., 2017), when others model helping behavior (Schuhmacher, Köster, & Kärtner, 2018), parenting practices of mothers (Torréns & Kärtner, 2017), and involvement of their children in daily shores (Köster et al., 2016). Parent and others behavior in such circumstances can thus effectively reinforce helpful behavior on children and encourage learning of prosocial norms.
Owing to interaction with others, children can prosocially evolve, being able to learn rules of sociability, develop open-mindedness, express their sentiments, and even control impulsive instincts. For Costa and Cavalcante (2012), as children employ their prosocial abilities, they tend to imitate normal activities observed in family members, allusive to different adapting manners, whose routines accord their particular environment. Considering Saud and Tonelotto (2005), prosocial conduct allows children not only to promote wellbeing, acceptance, and support for others but also to achieve, appreciate, and undergo socialization experiences, which develop their abilities and contribute to understand their attitudes and impacts on social interaction.
“Developmental Niche” considers that children develop through interaction of subsystems this theory comprises (Harkness & Super, 1992, 1994). Supported on such theoretical framework, this paper investigates maternal socialization goals and their role in child development, namely their influence on prosocial behavior in early childhood. Specifically, the present research examines potential correlations between maternal socialization goals and spontaneous prosocial behavior among children from a rural context in Brazil.