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Historical, Socioeconomic and Cultural Factors Influences on Human Behavior Developmental Psychology

Updated on June 11, 2010

Through out time, there has been the suggestion that a person’s cultural background dictates their behaviors.  This is a common reasoning for the discrimination of specific individuals and cultures as well as the reasoning behind such acts as slavery.  However, there is some evidence to the truth of this statement.  Individuals who were separated from their cultural roots often display some of the same behaviors as those who have not been displaced from those same roots.

This has been demonstrated through various twin adoption observations where one twin was left with the original culture while the other one was transplanted into another culture.  These original tests were conducted and published in 1924, by Merriman. (Plomin, 2004) The original tests did not receive much in the line of attention due to the presence of behavioral psychology which holds the belief that a person is shaped not by their genetic code, but rather by their environment.  In addition, the study of genetics was in its infancy with DNA not yet discovered.

Behavioral and educational information are said to have much more to do with a person’s psychosis than their genetics and cultural backgrounds, therefore, making it more prone for study.  It is essential that one does not ignore the genetic information of a patient and the cultural information that has been encoded there when evaluating a patent.  This is extremely true for those patients who are extremely young.

With the discovery of genetics and in particular the humane genome and DNA strand, it is now possible to further study a human’s behavior in relation to their genetic history.  The discovery of genetics has brought to light a person’s historical influences in behavior, as well as the cultural behaviors that have been influenced by genetics rather than education and socialization. These discoveries are most prevalent in children’s behaviors.  Children are less prone to social influences and are more true to their natural behaviors. This acting on natural behaviors enables psychologists to determine which actions are learned behaviors from the culture that they are presented with, and which ones are latent behaviors from their historical culture.

Children have continually been used to assist psychologists in determining the extent in which genetics determines an individual’s ability or behavior. Children are used due to the limited amount of nurturing behavior modifications that they display and the higher frequency of latent behaviors.  The child use behaviors that are mostly passed on traits and the fewest learned traits.

An example of determining the child’s genetic or latent knowledge is through the use of an Intelligence Quotient test, or IQ test. (Mitchell, 1992, p. 48) This test uses the child’s latent or hereditary knowledge, rather than the child’s learned skills.  These tests focus both on the speed and the number of correct answers to “measure” the child’s intelligence, or ability to be a better problem solver after an education is achieved. It is suggested through these intelligence quotient tests that intelligence is a genetic inheritance.

This is noted through the various tests that show twin babies with the same genetic information who were separated at birth, score remarkably close to each other in intelligence tests.  This is even after being separated for long periods of time and receiving different nurturing styles.  Meanwhile, those children who are adopted or raised in the same social and environmental situation have IQ scores that are more spread out. (Mitchell, 1992, p. 52)

It has been a long held belief that the socioeconomical status of the family would immediately influence the behaviors of human children.  This belief states that a family that was raise poor would therefore, continue to be poor and those children would continue the cycle, even if removed from the situation.  This has been proven to be incorrect. When given the chance, the children of a less affluent socioeconomical status are more likely to work to overcome their previous conditions rather than continue the cycle of poverty. 

Those children who were taken from the less affluent family will not display any signs that would connect him to the poverty lifestyle he was born into.  It is true that the education and previous experiences of the impoverished child will influence his behaviors if he is left in the situation.  These learned behaviors may be present while handing stressful situations even after he reaches a more affluent status.  The overall behavior of the individual who has achieved success will be that of the affluent status.

The socioeconomic status of the family that produces a child is not a direct influence over the child’s genetic behaviors or immediate youth behaviors.  Over time, socioeconomic concerns may arise with the child has he or she learns that they are looked down upon by others and may learn to blame others for situations that they find themselves.  This is a taught behavior and not one that is latent within the child.

However, culture does profoundly affect how a child develops. (Smith, 2001, p. 362) In recent studies, they have found that children from different geographic areas make different cries from birth.  While there have not been any differences found in the child’s vocal system, the cries are decidedly distinct by culture.  This shows a basis for there to be a change in behaviors based solely on culture.  The baby was given no other means of learning how to cry except through genetics, which is most often the cornerstone for culture, and the change in cry indicates a genetic behavioral change.  This part of genetics would seriously be affected by an individual’s culture.

Language is an extraordinarily vital part of all culture and each language has a distinct feel both in the sound quality, and the tones used to make speech patterns.  The baby’s cry shows a connection between the genetics of speech and the genetic patterns of that speech.  This piece of psychology is vital to the beginnings of understanding language and how the change of language affects individuals and their ability to use the language as well as interpret the language.

In addition to the advancements in human genetics, there have also been advancements in psychological assessments.  These assessments can be used to track the individual child through their cultural intermigration and changes.  This can be a helpful means of determining the child’s latent and learned skills in comparison to those around him.  This can help to further the study of genetic verses environmental factors in the development of children.

There are several behavioral factors that appear to be constants within the different cultures.  These cross-cultural behaviors are behaviors that are genetically developed in each culture. (Adamopoulos & Lonner, 2001, p. 13) This can include the behaviors associated with walking, talking, gesturing and smiling.  These cross cultural behaviors do not need to be taught to the child, as the baby is already making those motions and sounds before cognitive rational has paired them with a specific action.

Walking generally occurs during the first year of the child’s life, around the twelfth month.  Around the world, this is a constant behavior, all children have the desire to walk.  At the same time, it is seen in American cultures that the age of the walking child is beginning to decline.  More American children are walking at a younger age than the children of other cultures.  This is thought to be due to the propensity of American mothers to lay their children on their back rather than their stomach.  Babies who sleep more on their stomach than on their backs spend more time learning to crawl, while babies who sleep on their back are beginning to skip the crawling phase.  Since this is a new behavior change across the America culture, there is little evidence that shows what other changes will result due to this change.

Another cross-cultural habit is one of eating. Every culture eats some type of food.  It is the cultural behavior that indicates what is edible and what is not edible.  In addition, it is the culture that dictates how much to eat of what type of food.  Culture will also dictate what of the edible foods will be disregarded and which will be favored.

There has been a recent push for the change in American culture by reducing the amount and types of food that American’s eat.  Americans, through their cultural education, tend to eat a lot of fast and convenient food types.  These are not the healthiest foods, but many Americans find that they simply do not have the time to prepare otherwise healthy foods.  The culture that the children are raised in is one of eating on the run and eating convenient foods, and a lot of those foods.  The idea of waste is shunned in American cultures and therefore, the children are taught to eat until all of the food is gone, rather than listen to their instincts as to when they are full.  This cultural influence on the behavior of children has caused a crisis of obesity in America.

The genetics of the American is not to blame for the increase in the children’s waist lines, but rather the culture is to blame.  This culture changes the behaviors that are latent in the child and causes him to eat more than he needs to sustain himself and grow.  This is a re-occurring condition in that the children of the culturally influenced children, who are now adults, are then forced to continue eating beyond their needs.

There are many more aspects of childhood development that are influenced through cultural influence.  These factors in development include language, problem solving skills and interpersonal skills.  Each culture has its own language that it uses to communicate with those around it.  Many of these cultures are divided from their larger cultural family through the language and the use of different dialects.  Even though the child may be part of a larger cultural influence, the smaller and closer cultural influence will be the one that the child pays most attention to as he develops.  While each child across the world will have a desire to communicate, it is only through the use of the cultural symbols and language that the communication may mean anything.

Problem solving skills are proven to be handled by both the inherent behaviors and the cultural behaviors.  While the skills are genetic, the dedication and approaches to problem-solving methods are cultural.  There are many different ways in which an individual may approach a problem and the manner that the individual chooses often reflects the individual’s cultural way of handing difficulties and stress.  If the problem is automatically deemed too much to attempt, the idea of restraint and restriction was placed on the culture.  If each problem is possible for solving, the idea of freedom was noticed in the culture.

Each culture has a different opinion upon what is acceptable behavior and what is not, and it is only through the influences of the culture that the child is able to learn what is acceptable and what is not.  These are often not taught through the traditional sense to the child, but rather are learned through the mimicking and the observation of the culture around the child.  These are not genetic or inherent skills and behaviors because they directly relate to the culture itself. These are not passed down through generations and are not mimicked by children of that culture who have not had contact with the culture.

These behaviors in the child can extend as far as how he treats others from different cultures or those within the same culture but of a different social standing or status.  It is in the nature of the human child to treat everyone equally and to accept everyone as they are.  It is in the nature of the culture to close off and isolate different groups that adhere to different beliefs or that look different than the original group.  Children are taught these differences as they progress through their development.

The largest social trend that will have a substantial impact on the behavioral development of children in today’s society is the invasion of the social network and the “me” ideology.  Many of the young adults of the last generation, the Y generation, are known for being terribly ego-centric and therefore, are less likely to feel empathy towards those who are around them.  This coupled with the inclusion of the social networking that does not necessitate the meeting of the individual to continue conversation will lead to a more isolated community and child.

The child’s development will enter a sudden shift as more people are beginning to pay more attention to what is on the computer rather than what is going on around them.  This will be especially true for those children of the next generations.  The lack of empathy may also cause a continuation of aggression and a disinterest in the overall social good.

There is a significant concern that the use of computers for communication and education will lead to a society of children who are afraid or unable to handle social contact with other children.  It has already been noted that children who are home schooled often suffer sever anxiety when entering a college or work setting where they are forced to work with others.  These children are unsure about their ability to handle to conflict and are less able to feel empathy for those around them.  They tend to be more self aware, but not socially aware.  There is a significant concern that more children will suffer from this lack of social awareness even as the world becomes smaller through social networking.

There is also a strong concern that with more in the home distractions being presented to the child, such as computer games and television shows, that there will be a decrease in the child’s willingness to experience things outside of the home.  These things can include the environment, cultural events and social events.  This can lead to a lack of understanding of the cultural behaviors that once were a crucial part of their history and background and still influence their genetic code.  This lack of understanding can cause a significant loss in cultural awareness.  This loss will be felt throughout the world as the children begin to lose their historical cultures to computers and other gaming systems.

The other significant shift that is occurring globally that will influence the cultural understanding and psychological development of children around the world is the “green movement”.  Just as children are becoming more ego-centric and less likely to be culturally aware, they are becoming more environmentally conscious at home.  This is not for the better good of their future children, but rather for their immediate satisfaction.  There is a sense of respect and pride they receive through the purchasing of “green” products and the green actions that they perform.  Couple this with the financial benefits of lowering the energy needs in the home; there is little reason that the children would not integrate this into their cultural development and eventually their psychological development.  They will eventually see those who do not participate in these actions as the bad people, not for the damage that is done to the future’s earth, but rather to the immediate earth.

There is also a significant concern that this ego-centric attitude coupled with the current cutbacks due to the recession will lead to heavy spenders in the future.  There is a cultural tendency for people to forget about past hardships and over compensate for those difficulties once the fear caused by those difficulties has passed.  The immediate challenges are the global economical troubles that are abounding.  There is an enormous amount of concern that these difficulties are going to affect children’s understanding of how to prepare for the worse-case scenario and how to plan financially for the future.  Even though there is a world wide financial crisis, many of the last few generations are refusing to give up their “luxury” items such as computers and Internet.  These objects are easy to procure through the government systems and public services, but the luxury of having these in the home continues.

Cell phones are another cultural must have that has crossed all cultural levels.  This need to be connected at a distance and the need to technologically advance over others will eventually drive the children of tomorrow into isolation.  This will lead to the psychosis of many children and increase the frequency of anxiety related issues.  In addition, the desire to remain indoors may be linked to the increase of childhood attention deficient conditions and obesity issues.  The children have a lot of latent energy from genetics and simply being children while the culture is saying to stay indoors and play on the computer.

There is now more stock in being good on a computer than being athletic and this will only lead to additional psychological problems for the children as they age.  The idea of medicating a child has become normal and acceptable in most cultures and this will lead to the general acceptance of meditation and the continuation of drug induced children.  The idea of being “disabled” has also become quite the norm for the children of today and this will only backfire as the number of “disabled” individuals increases while the number of able individuals falls, placing more stress on the able people to support the notable.


Adamopoulos, J., & Lonner, W. J. (2001). 2 Historical Perspective and Theoretical Analysis. In The Handbook of Culture & Psychology, Matsumoto, D. (Ed.) (pp. 11-31). New York: OxfordUniversity Press. Retrieved June 1, 2010, from Questia database:

Emde, R. N. & Hewitt, J. K. (Eds.). (2001). Infancy to Early Childhood: Genetic and Environmental Influences on Developmental Change. New York: OxfordUniversity Press. Retrieved June 1, 2010, from Questia database:

MacNaughton, G., Rolfe, S. A., & Siraj-Blatchford, I. (2001). Doing Early Childhood Research : International Perspectives on Theory and Practice /. Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin. Retrieved June 1, 2010, from Questia database:

Manke, B., Saudino, K. J., & Grant, J. D. (2001). 5 Extremes Analyses of Observed Temperament Dimensions. In Infancy to Early Childhood: Genetic and Environmental Influences on Developmental Change, Emde, R. N. & Hewitt, J. K. (Eds.) (pp. 52-72). New York: OxfordUniversity Press. Retrieved June 1, 2010, from Questia database:

Mitchell, P. (1992). The Psychology of Childhood. London: Falmer Press. Retrieved June 1, 2010, from Questia database:

Plomin, R. (2004). Genetics and Developmental Psychology. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 50(3), 341+. Retrieved June 1, 2010, from Questia database:

Smith, P. B. (2001). 18 Cross-Cultural Studies of Social Influence. In The Handbook of Culture & Psychology, Matsumoto, D. (Ed.) (pp. 361-372). New York: OxfordUniversity Press. Retrieved June 1, 2010, from Questia database:


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    • m abdullah javed profile image

      muhammad abdullah javed 

      3 years ago

      You are true behavioral and educational informations have much more to do with a person's psychosis. A very scholarly write Sarah Arnette. Thanks for sharing with us. I think we need to focus on the educational or knowledge basis. In today's era of knowledge explosion the human behavior is touching its low. When we have realised the knowledge or education as the bases for human development then why this degradation? Are we satisfied with today's man or need some corrective measures?

      Thanks again voted up.


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