12.1 Social Interaction in Early Childhood: Do you know the values and expectations parents have on their children & the effects?


Chapter 12



12.1 Describe the values and expectations parents have on their children.


All parents value there children. However, the degree of value that parents attach to their children varies. Similarly the expectations that parents have on their children vary from one parent to another and also between a parent and the individual children. In this Chapter we are going to focus on general values and expectations that parents have on their children. We are also going to discuss how the different situations affect children’s interaction patterns, and consequently a child’s socialization process.



All parents expect their children to succeed in life.  They expect them to uphold the family values and perpetuate them to subsequent generations. In most African communities, parents’ expectations   and values on their children are gender based. This affects parents’ interaction with their children. Consequently, the treatment that a child receives has traditionally been pegged on, and interpreted from, a gender stereotyped perspective.


Expectations for boys

In traditional societies  boys, from a very early stage are trained to live by  the expected masculine attributes. These include:

Making  major contributions in development: They are expected to control and manipulate the environment. They are expected to make major decisions that involve their environment. At the tender age, they are gradually prepared to take over the roles when they become adults.

Dominance: Their presence should have some impact.

Leadership : The male is expected to lead others irrespective of the age or abilities that the women present, have. For example, in some communities, once the father went on a journey, the eldest son who could be a young boy was told that he was in charge of his mother and sisters.

Bravery: Males are expected to withstand negative forces. They therefore flirt with danger. For example, when confronted by an enemy males are expected to fight back while it is acceptable for a female to run away.

Assertive: Males are not expected to give in as this is viewed as a sign of cowardice, which is largely associated with women.

Achievement oriented: In many communities men are socialized to believe that there is nothing they cannot do. There is a saying in one Kenyan community that says, “That which defeats men must be bewitched.” Meaning that naturally, males can do all things.

Competitive in social and sexual relationships: They are expected to be skilful in their interactions.


Expectations for girls

Fathers and mothers usually treat girls as the weaker sex from early childhood. Some of the characteristics associated with female children include

Fragility: They are expected to be weak both physically and emotionally. Some behaviours such as crying that cannot be condoned in males are perceived as normal female behaviour.

Passive: They expected to control their involvement particularly in the presence of males.

Submission and conformity: Females are expected to abide by decisions made by men even if they may have better alternatives.

Loving: They are expected to continue loving and being warm even when the environment is not conducive

Decent: While males can talk or dress anyhow, women are expected to use kind words and to be Sensitive about the manner of dress.

Sensitive and loyal in social relationships: This is supposed to prepare them for their roles as mothers and wives.

Self conscious: Females are supposed to mind their mannerisms. For example, how they walk, sit or even eat.

Dependent : Girls are expected to seek for help rather that doing exploits by themselves.


i)What are the expectations of parents on their sons and daughters in your community.

ii) Cite sayings and proverbs that could be associated with gender stereotyped expectations


12.2 Discuss the  cultural values that parents in your community have on their daughters and sons.

Value for boys

Most African communities attach greater value to boys than girls. This starts immediately a baby is born. In societies where women ululate to communicate the arrival of a new baby, the number of ululations for boys is normally higher than for a girl. For example in Kikuyu community, there were five for a boy and four for a girl. Often the boy child is given the first priority when resources are scarce. In some communities, mothers favour boys  as they serve their children with food. Parents value boys for reasons such as the following:

They inherit and sustain the family property: In many African societies, boys are the rightful heirs of their father’s property.  If a man does not have a son, in many cases, a man’s property goes to other male relatives.

Continuation of the family name: Most of the African communities are patriarchal. This means that the man maintains his family name while a woman becomes integrated to the man’s family.

Providing security for the parents when they are old:  Boys were viewed as reliable companionships. In traditional societies sons remained in their homestead when they married. This gave the parents an opportunity to receive care from the son’s family.

Inheritance of unique skills in a family: Fathers trained their sons in any special skills they had. A father without a son died without having passed on such skills.

Providing security: Boys were viewed as the fathers’ assistants in terms of security from intruders, especially when the father is away.

Community defense:  In traditional communities, there were many conflicts and young men were the warriors. Women were never involved in fighting.

Amassing  family wealth: Males were expected to bring their wealth home as opposed to girls who take whatever they get to their husbands’ homes.

Emotional satisfaction: Owing to the emphasis on the importance of a boy child, many parents feel very insecure without one, even in the contemporary society. A study by Chege (1993) revealed  that parents, especially mothers attached very high value to parenting sons as opposed to daughters. Many women feel insecure and if they do not have a son, no matter how many daughters they have mothered. Similarly, many men feel psychologically unsettled when they fail to get a son.


Value for girls

Helping in household chores: Many parents perceive the value of girls as merely assisting in household chores.

Source of wealth: Traditionally, girls’ value has been attached to the gains that the family could get from her.  In communities where bride price was emphasized girls were viewed as assets that would be “traded” for wealth.



Conduct short study on the values that parents attached to boys and girls in your traditional community.


12.3 Discuss the impact  of values and expectations on children’s social interaction


Values and expectations that parents have on their sons and daughters remarkably impact on their  children’s socialization. The views that parents have on their children influence their interaction patterns and treatment. Though this could be from inference, in social interaction with their sons and daughters, parents usually communicate the values that they attach to them. This influences children’s subsequent behaviour.


Often girls and boys become inclined to the expectations. As a result, many girls tend to place high values on socially oriented goals while the boys seek to be able to solve problems, achieve and prove their competence. Boys reared in societies that expect them to conquer  work persistently to achieve. Girls whose expectations are not as high easily give up and wait for help when they encounter a problem. This in turn affects boys and girls performance at school and their career prospects.


The prevailing treatment often influences a child’s concept of self and impacts on their self esteem.

There are cases where boys are so elevated that they become conceited.



Berns, R.M. (1997). Child, Family, School, Community: Socialisation and Support.        USA:     Harcourt Brace College Publishers.

Kate W. & Gardener, R. (1993). Caring for Children. England: Longman

Kostelnik, Stein, Whiren and Soderman(1993). Guiding Children’s Social Development. USA:     South-Western Publishing Company

McCandless B.R. & Evans D. E. (1973). Children and youth: psychosocial development. Atlanta:     Dryden Press.


Testing exercise 12

  1. Analyse the expectations that parents in your community have on their daughters and sons.
  2. Describe factors that influence parents value on their daughters and sons
  3. Citing relevant examples of discrimination, explain the effect of values and expectations on boys and girls



Autonomy: Inner sense of control

Electra conflict:  Girls’ manifestation of a kind of erotic desires for their father and     hostility     towards their mother, during the third stage of Freud’s psychosexual     development.

Erogenous zone:  This refers to the body part that sexual energy is invested at the     various     stages of psychosexual development.

Extraneous stimulus: Actions or elements that divert an individual’s attention         from a     task that he or she is involved in

Fixation: Failure to progress normally from one psychosexual stage to another,      resulting in     behaviours that are characteristic of the period when the fixation     occurred

Innate characteristics: Traits that are biologically endowed.  

mental script:

Negative reinforcement: Showing no response to or ignoring an emitted behaviour.

Nest: the home in which a child lives with  and is supported by parents.

Oedipal conflict:  Boys’ manifestation of a kind of erotic desires for their mother and     hostility towards their father, during the third stage of Freud’s psychosexual     development.

Peer sociotherapy; Intervention used to help friendless children learn how to make and maintain     friendship.

Positive reinforcement:  A pleasant experience or a reward that follow a certain     behaviour  e.g     nods, smiles, pat on the back, praise etc.

Punishment:  Infliction of pain which could be psychological or physical for example, caning,     scolding, withdrawal of privileges.

Schema: Cluster of knowledge in the mental faculties

Sibling rivalry:

Vicarious learning: Learning from observing the consequencies of an observed     behaviour



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