Cross-Cultural Differences in Parental Beliefs About Infant Motor Development: A Quantitative and Qualitative Report of Middle-Class Israeli and Dutch Parents

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Abstract

The present study explored cultural differences in parental beliefs about motor development across 2 Western cultures: Israel and the Netherlands. Can 2 cultural models be distinguished regarding infant motor development in Israel and the Netherlands or are parental beliefs about motor development similar across these cultures? Using a questionnaire containing closed and open questions, beliefs of 206 Israeli and 198 Dutch parents of first-born children between 2 and 7 months old were analyzed. Based on both quantitative and qualitative analyses, distinct cultural models were found showing that the Dutch attributed a bigger role to maturation and children’s own pace than to stimulation. The Israeli parents found stimulation of motor development important and discussed active stimulation more elaborately. When discussing supportive activities, the Israeli parents mentioned specific activities, whereas the Dutch parents used more general, vague expressions about support. Moreover, the Israeli parents discussed the need for expert advice and advice from relatives and other parents more than the Dutch parents, who rely on their own observations, books, or websites more often. The cultural background was the strongest predictor of parental beliefs about motor development. Parental education, age, children’s birth weight, gender, and having seen a physical therapist showed weaker relations with parental beliefs. Altogether, 2 distinguishing cultural models can be found, raising the question whether infant motor development can be approached similarly across Western cultures. Besides this implication for science, practitioners should also be aware of differences between cultures and between parents.

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