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This article describes caretaker interactive and communicative behaviors in various minority cultures in the context of independent/interdependent dimensions of the social world. Attention regulation, pragmatic input, and object engagement and play exemplify how caretakers from minority cultures interact with children differently than caretakers from American and European cultures. Understanding these behaviors can assist therapists in planning language-facilitation interventions for children with language delay or impairment.
Because family-centered services are becoming more prevalent in the area of intervention, understanding caretaker interaction styles from various cultures is imperative. Considering that the dominant knowledge base in child development comes from North American and European populations (Greenfield, 1994), the potential for cultural bias is significant (van Kleeck, 1994). As Iglesias and Quinn (1997) pointed out, although sensitivity to and awareness of differences has increased across and within cultural-linguistic groups, professionals have difficulty knowing "how to provide intervention programs that are consistent with the research literature, based on professional knowledge, and at the same time respect the culture of the families who are served" (p. 56). The challenge for service providers who are not from the culture being served is to understand not only what behaviors are different but also possible reasons why the behaviors are different. Professionals must understand that caregivers engage in a style that is consistent with the caregivers' culture (Rogoff, 1990). Otherwise, the therapist may make incorrect or inappropriate evaluations of various behaviors.
Hwa-Froelich and Vigil (this issue) explore the influence of culture in cross-cultural communicative interactions. In this article, we will describe specific examples of the cultural impact on caregiver-child interactions. Our purpose is twofold. First, in the context of the cultural constructs of responsibility relationships, interpersonal relationships, and risk management presented by Hwa-Froelich and Vigil (this issue), we will outline research exemplifying how culture can influence the behavior of caretakers when interacting with their children in attention regulation, pragmatic input, and object engagement and play. We have chosen these specific behaviors because they are basic to interaction and should be considered in a therapeutic milieu, whether directly intervening with a child or providing recommendations to caretakers. Second, we will discuss implications and ideas for intervention with regard to these specific behaviors.
A large body of scholarly research spanning many years has provided information on caregiver behavior and mother-child interaction in middle class North American and European populations. Within these populations, the interactions emphasize following the child's lead and describing what the child sees, expressing short utterances and less complex sentences, engaging the child in conversation, and encouraging exploration during play (Farver, 1993; Nelson, 1973; Newport, Gleitman, & Gleitman, 1977; Snow, 1977; Tomasello & Farrar, 1986). Researchers studying other populations, however, have found that caregivers from other cultures interact differently than those in the North American and European populations (Heath, 1983; Rogoff, Mistry, Goncu, & Moiser, 1993; Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986). The influence of cultural values is evident during interactions between caregivers and their children in the areas of attention regulation, pragmatic input, and object engagement and play.
Joint attention, a developmental skill in which a child learns to attend to the same object or event as an adult member of a group, is necessary for learning language (Bruner, 1975, 1983). The ability to jointly attend to an object or an event with an adult member is related to language acquisition (Tomasello, 1988), and how a caretaker helps the child attend is an important aspect of joint attention. Tomasello and his colleagues (Tomasello & Farrar, 1986; Tomasello & Todd, 1983) defined two interactional styles: attention-directing and attention-following. In attention-following, the adult attends to the child and then makes a comment on the object or event of interest to the child. In attention-directing, the adult directs a child's attention to the object or event to which the adult wants the child to attend.
Research results investigating attention regulation style demonstrated that children acquire more words and maintain joint attention for longer periods when the caretaker engages in an attention-following style (Akhtar, Dunham, & Dunham, 1991; Dunham, Dunham, & Curwin, 1993; Tomasello & Farrar, 1986; Tomasello & Todd, 1983). Consequently therapists considered attention-following to be the optimal interactional style, and they taught parents to follow the child's lead as a language-facilitation technique (Manolson, 1992). This research, however, was based on middle-class North American and European populations (Vigil, 2002). In studies with other ethnic groups, caregivers did not engage in an attention-following style and used a more directive style.
With regard to responsibility in relationships, as discussed by Hwa-Froelich and Vigil (this issue), following a child's lead likely falls into an independent value system because the caretaker focuses on what the child is doing. This reinforces individual interests and independent choices. In contrast, caretakers with an interdependent value system may use a directive style to ensure that children participate in the group dynamic by following and obeying the caretaker's goals. Figure 1 shows attention regulation behaviors along the independence/interdependence continuum. On the independence side of the continuum, the caregiver follows the child's lead and engages in behaviors that support the child's exploration of his or her environment. On the interdependence end of the continuum, the caregiver directs the child's attention to an established activity with other interactants to teach the child the importance of socialization and collaboration.
Attention Regulation in Young …