Ethnicity or Cultural Background Analytical Essay

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

Introduction

The purpose of this essay is to assess the impact that ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds have on the daily lives of children or young people. Many cities and countries around the world are made up of diverse ethnic societies and communities that have different social practices and values.

Cultural backgrounds and ethnicity provide such communities with a sense of uniqueness and differentiation from other societies that might be found within the same city or country. To better understand the topic under discussion a definition of ethnicity and culture should be discussed.

Ethnicity is defined as a social group or community in a certain area that shares similar features which might include language, physical appearance, customs and cultural practices and religion. Ethnicity is also defined as the selected cultural characteristics that are used to identify and categorise people that are viewed to be significantly different from other people within the same social context (Dindyal and Dindyal 2004).

Ethnic groups are the social categories that are used to classify people within the society and they can either be minority or majority groups based on the population of people that belong to these categories.

Ethnic groups in some countries are also referred to as tribes given that they speak a different language from the rest of society (Aggleton et al 2006). Ethnic categorization provides people with a link to their ancestry, biological inheritance as well as cultural information. Ethnicity provides people with a cultural identity that can be used to differentiate them from other people.

Ethnicity therefore provides people with culture given that the concept is a construct of culture (O’Neil 2006). Cultural background or culture is how people in a certain social group or community view things or happenings around the world.

Culture is a pattern of living that is governed by traditions and customs of a particular social group or community. It encompasses aspects such as assumptions, attitudes, values, customs and perceptions that people have on various aspects that affect their daily lives (D’Anastasi and Frydenberg 2005).

The culture of a particular group will determine the sets of beliefs or values that will be shared by members of that group. Cultural values and beliefs are usually handed down from one generation to another to ensure that the traditions of a social group have been maintained and kept intact.

Culture is therefore important to the society as it ensures that certain social practices have been maintained as well as ensuring that the daily lives of human beings have some meaning and purpose. Both culture and ethnicity have a direct impact on the daily lives of human beings, young adults and children as they affect their decisions as well as their personal actions (Alder et al 2009).

Children or Young Adults and Culture or Ethnic Aspects

According to Montgomery and Kellett (2009) children or young people are described as social phenomenons that are defined by their biological and social maturity as well as their intellectual development. Their maturity levels are usually assigned based on the social meaning that they derive from their cultural settings as well as their ethnic backgrounds.

The idea of a child according to Montgomery and Kellett (2009) refers to a representation of a whole category of young people that are identified by their age and intellectual development and also their social maturity and how this affects their social standing within a particular society or community.

The biological and social immaturity of young people and children is viewed by Raman (2010) to be the only determinant that can be used to gauge a child’s development within the society. This biological/social immaturity is what is used to determine whether the child or young adult is being impacted in a direct or indirect way by ethnicity or their cultural background.

Childhood is viewed to be a stage in the human life cycle that is determined by the level of incompleteness or incompetence that the child or young adult experiences in that period of their life. It is a period where the child or young adult is viewed to lack any flaws or faults by their parents and the community at large.

This is because at this stage they are still maturing and their intellectual capacities are still developing meaning that they cannot be able to differentiate properly between right and wrong.

They also view themselves to be without any flaws or faults as they believe that what they do is right regardless of whether it is wrong or right. Childhood is therefore an important stage in a person’s life as this period is viewed to be important in determining whether the child or young person will be influenced by cultural and ethnic aspects (UNICEF 2006).

Childhood and adolescence in children and young adults is a transitional process that is usually characterised by changes in behaviour and attitudes as well as in personality and physical appearances. These changes are usually brought on by biological and physical changes that take place during puberty that determine how the young adult will develop during this stage.

This stage is deemed to be important as the young adults are highly prone to being affected by various social aspects that take place in their communities or societies. Aspects such as ethnicity or culture are deemed to have an impact on the development of the young adult during this stage of their life (Zastrow and Ashman 2009).

While various cultural and ethnic groups exist in various societies around the world, children and young adults have their own cultural groups that exist in institutions such as schools, churches, recreational facilities and neighbourhoods. Cultural groups such as peer cultures are common in young adolescents where children form friendships based on their age and social status within the social institutions in which they exist in.

According to an analysis conducted by Sociologist William Corsaro (2003) on peer cultures that exist in nursery schools in the US and Italy, he noted that peer cultures that exist among young children were important in socializing them in their interactions with adults in the same social context.

Corsaro (2003) defines peer cultures as a stable set of activities, concerns, beliefs and routines that children share with their peers in their daily lives. Children reproduce peer cultures to reflect their own attitudes and beliefs that are different from those of adults because they involve the use of self discovery and the acquisition of new knowledge to develop their own culture (Montgomery 2009).

Peer cultures generally challenge the societal and community versions of culture where children and young adults are active partners when it comes to forming peer groups and developing meaning to these groups which can be used to develop their own culture. Peer cultures encourage children to participate in activities that they have a common interest in and they also encourage them to fit in with their peers.

Peer cultures according to Montgomery and Kellett (2009) are usually determined by the societal context in which the child or young adult has been brought up in as well as their ethnic backgrounds or tribes.

Children who are from similar ethnic communities are more than likely to form peer cultures in a community or society that is different from theirs. These children are also more than likely to form social groups based on their physical characteristics and also language familiarities.

Impact of Ethnicity and Culture in the Daily Lives of Children and Young People

Children are easily influenced and impacted on by various social aspects that take place within their ethnic or cultural backgrounds. According to Raman (2010) ethnicity and culture have an impact on the development of children and young people’s behaviour as well as their identity and well being in their various social contexts that include school, peer groups, home and other social institutions that exist within the society.

Ethnicity and culture have an impact on the development of children and young adults based on certain variables that include social characteristics, type of ethnic or cultural groups, individual characteristics of the child or young adult, racism or social discrimination within the society that the child is from and the type of language and language fluency (Bolaffi 2004).

Social characteristics such as religion, beliefs, shared values and customs, ethnicity and cultural backgrounds of a community impact on the development of children in that these beliefs or religions determine what practices the child will be involved in within the community.

Social characteristics impact on how children react to various situations in their day to day activities as they regard these characteristics when making decisions on how they will relate to their peers in school and also how they will interact with their colleagues in learning institutions.

The ethnic or cultural group impacts on the development of a child or young person as it provides a child with the ability to communicate in a language that can be understood by other members of the same social group or community. Ethnic groups impact on young adult’s development as they provide them with a sense of identity that can either be ethnic identity, cultural identity, nationality and racial identity.

This sense of identity is important in the development of the young adult’s personality, character and individual characteristics that are deemed to be different from those of other peers within the same social setting (Tudge 2008).

Social discrimination and racism exists in various ethnic communities around the world where various ethnic groups are discriminated against based on their social beliefs, values and customs. Social discrimination impacts on the everyday life of children and young adults based on which ethnic community they come from as well as the cultural practices that are exercised by these ethnic communities.

For example children from African communities are more than likely to experience social discrimination within westernised communities when compared to children from other westernised societies. Also children with Muslim backgrounds are likely to experience some form of racism and social discrimination because of their cultural beliefs, religion, customs and shared practices (Every Child Matters 2010).

Child rearing practices such feeding, demonstration of affection, discipline, teaching and moral reasoning influence the rate of a child’s development within the social context. Such practices also determine whether ethnicity and cultural practices will have an impact on the daily life of the child or young person.

For example feeding in some westernised societies is deemed to impact on the intellectual development of a child while in traditional societies feeding is deemed to be a mark of growth and maturity in childhood.

Some traditional societies and ethnic groups view the demonstration of affection by parents or caregivers to be a sign of weakness and poor self esteem in young children while westernised societies view affection to be an important aspect in the building up of self confidence and esteem in young children.

Such child rearing practices that have their basis on ethnicity and cultural backgrounds will therefore affect how a child will grow up and perform within their social settings (Montgomery and Kellett 2009).

Montgomery (2009) views ethnicity to have an impact on the way children experience their childhood based on their particular cultures and cultural backgrounds.

For example in measuring the goals of development of a young adult in the westernized world aspects such as career choices, career progression, marriage or the acquisition of a car or house are seen to be indicators that the young person is developing socially and intellectually.

In the traditional world, the goals of development that are used include achieving tribal status, moving from one stage of childhood to another, the ability to perform elevated tasks within the community and the ability to influence tribal decisions according to the social development of the young adult (Lewis 2005).

The various cultural practices and ethnic communities that exist have different practices that are determine how the everyday growth of a child or young adult will be affected.

For example in the westernized world cultural practices that exist in western societies emphasize the importance of direct and verbal learning in infants while traditional societies that are not westernised place a lot of emphasis on nonverbal learning that is indirect and observational in nature.

In the westernised societies children are allowed to perform child rearing practices such as feeding, sleeping and moral reasoning without the help of parents or caregivers while in the traditional societies children are in constant physical contact with their parents and caregivers who perform child rearing activities for them (Ramsay 2009).

Ethnicity and culture impact on the eating habits of children and young adults as various communities have cultures and practices on what food is acceptable or unacceptable. For example ethnic communities such as the Hindus do not consume cow meat because they view cows as their gods while Muslims do not consume pork or other products from pigs because they view them to be dirty.

Ethnicity and cultural practices therefore play an important role in determining the diet of young children from such cultural communities by ensuring that the type of food that they eat is not in contradiction with the values and beliefs of that particular society (Ramsay 2009).

How children and young adults learn in educational institutions is also affected by their ethnic backgrounds and cultural values. Various ethnic communities require their children to go through special educational training that is mostly focused on the ethnic group and its cultures, practices and customs.

For example Muslim children require special educational classes that teach them of their religion and cultural background as well as their beliefs and values. Various educational institutions around the world incorporate Christian educational studies in their curriculums to meet the religious needs of children and young adults from various religious backgrounds (Every Child matters 2010).

Apart from child development and child rearing activities, ethnicity and culture impacts on how children and young adults cope with their daily lives.

A cross cultural investigation conducted by D’Anastasi and Frydenberg (2005) on adolescents from various cultural backgrounds (Americans, Australian, Germans, British, Finnish, Russian, African and Israeli adolescents) showed how these young adults coped with various situations in their lives based on their ethnic or cultural backgrounds.

The results of the investigation indicated that a lot of diversity existed when it came to coping experiences among the youth. The investigations showed that young people from different ethnic communities and cultural backgrounds drew upon their diverse cultural and ethnic beliefs when coming up with suitable coping strategies (Hussain et al 2002).

The concept of coping which deals with managing situations that might threaten or affect an individual has a sociocultural embedment within various societies around the world. Different ethnic groups and societies have various strategies that they use to cope with dangerous situations that might face them in their day to day lives.

For example westernised societies such as America, the UK, some parts of Asia and Europe involve the use of verbal communication and expression when they are faced with threatening or emotional situations that affect them negatively.

In most of the traditional societies that exist in Africa as well as indigenous communities that are found in Australia, Asia, America and Canada, coping strategies are usually devoid of any forms of verbal communication with non verbal communication being the main strategy that is used to cope with threatening situations within these communities.

These ethnic groups also involve the use of physical confrontation to cope with these situations or negative problems that might affect them. Such differences in coping affect how young children and adults will deal with threatening situations in their daily lives (Ahmad et al 2008).

Based on a study conducted in 1992 by Seiffge and Krenke (cited by D’Anastasi and Frydenberg 2005) on German, Israel and Finnish adolescents and their coping strategies, young people involved the use of active, internal and withdrawal coping strategies when they were faced with threatening situations.

Active and internal coping strategies were viewed to be the most common coping approaches that were used by the interviewed adolescents while withdrawal was the least commonly used approach to deal with coping experiences.

The results of the study showed that there was a universal capacity for young people within diverse ethnic communities and cultural groups to involve the use of functional internal and active coping more than withdrawal when it came to dealing with stressful situations in their lives (D’Anastasi and Frydenberg 2005).

Conclusion

The essay has dealt with the impact of culture and/or ethnicity on the daily lives of young adults and children. The essay has dealt with the general concept of culture and ethnicity and how these two concepts affect the development of children that exist within the diverse societies that are in existence within the world.

The research within the essay has shown that culture and ethnicity affects the development of children as a whole as it determines their social maturity within various social settings.

Ethnicity and culture affects important aspects of a child’s development such as learning, eating and their interaction with peers within the society as it determines which values and beliefs the young person will follow to successfully achieve social maturity within the social or ethnic group.

The general conclusion derived from the essay’s discussion is that ethnicity and culture have an impact on the daily lives of young children and adults.

References

Alder, B., Abraham, C.S., and Teijlingen, E., (2009) Psychology and sociology applied to medicine. London, UK: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Ahmad, S., Akbar, A., Akbar, H., Ayub, S., Batool, A., Hussain, B., Kiani, S., Mahmood, S., and Rauf R., (2008) East meets west: why do some South Asian young people feel they need to lead a double identity and how does cultural and religious issues affect them. Web.

Aggleton, P., Ball, A., and Mane, P.N., (2006) Sex, drugs and young people: international perspectives. New Jersey: Routledge.

Bolaffi, G., (2004) Dictionary of race, ethnicity and culture. London, UK; Sage Publications.

Corsaro, W.A., (2003) We’re friends, right? : inside kid’s culture. Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press.

D’Anastasi, T., and Frydenberg, E., (2005) Ethnicity and coping: what young people do and what young people learn. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, Vol.15, No.1, pp. 43-59.

Dindyal, S., and Dindyal, S., (2004) How personal factors including culture and ethnicity affect the choices and selection of food we make. The Internet Journal of Third World Medicine, Vol.1, No.2.

Every Child Matters (2010) Behaviour in schools. Web.

Hussain, Y., Ahman, W., and Atkin, K., (2002) South Asian disabled young people and their families. Bristol, UK: The Policy Press.

Lewis, V., (2005) The reality of research with children and young people. London, UK: Sage Publications.

Montgomery, H., and Kellet, M., (2009) Children and young people’s world: developing frameworks for integrated practice. London, UK: Sage Publication.

Montgomery, H., (2009) An introduction to childhood: anthropological perspectives on children’s lives. West Sussex, UK: John Wiley and Sons.

O’Neil, D., (2006) Ethnicity and race: overview. Web.

Raman, S., (2010) Culture, identity and wellbeing in children and young people. Sydney, Australia: Sydney South West Area Health Service.

Ramsay, H., (2009) The adolescent’s perspective of culture and ethnicity within the South African outcome based education system. Web.

Tudge, J., (2008) The everyday lives of young children: culture, class and child rearing in diverse societies. New York: Cambridge University Press.

UNICEF (2006) Convention on the rights of the child: protecting and realizing children’s rights. Web.

Zastrow, C., and Ashman, K.K., (2009) Understanding human behaviour and the social environment. Boston, Massachusetts; Cengage Learning.

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