Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title

ETHOS

Publication Date

9-5-2016

Publisher

Society for Psychological Anthropology

Volume

44

Issue

3

First Page

269

Last Page

288

Abstract

This article uses children’s work as a lens to examine methodological concerns in the study of cultural transmission and children’s learning of useful domestic and subsistence skills. We begin by providing a review of the relevant literature concerning cultural transmission in the context of the ethnographic record, as well as more recent studies originating largely from psychology. We then offer an ethnographic case study concerning Asabano (PNG [Papua New Guinea]) childhood to make an important methodological contribution in the interdisciplinary study of cultural transmission. The case study centers on the paradox that Asabano parents, in interviews, claim that their children learn almost exclusively via parental teaching. Field observation and the parent’s and children’s spontaneous remarks suggest that this, in fact, does not happen and that children are expected to learn largely on their own with little parental intervention. To account for this paradox, we illustrate the limits of asking in particular cultural contexts like that of the Asabano, as well as the influence of institutions such as schools and churches, which have provided new and influential models of teaching that interlocutors are able to refer to in the context of interviews without necessarily changing their actual practices.

DOI

10.1111/etho.12131

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