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This chapter reviews existing theory and associated research on the development of social networks, and provides an overview of conceptual and methodological issues in the study of social network development. Issues common to research on network development include problems of definition, informant selection, reliability and validity, and setting network boundaries. It also includes the relevance of specific network characteristics, assessing network functions and providers, the effects of personal and contextual factors, the role of cognition, specification of change processes, and articulating network research with other research on the development of social relationships. The chapter presents a brief glimpse of unique trends and emerging work on social networks. This includes work on social network closure, observational studies, specialized populations, cyberspace networks, and interventions. Studies of specialized populations are potentially useful, as they may lead to an understanding of social network development under nonnormative conditions.
Interest in how children are reared and how they develop in other cultures is probably as old as cross-cultural observation itself, but this chapter's retrospective and prospective reflections are based on a genealogical framework that starts with Franz Boas, the founder of modern American cultural anthropology, as the intellectual great-grandfather of present-day thinking about human development in psychological anthropology. As we develop more of the genealogy and look ahead to future possibilities, this chapter will address the fundamental question of why anthropologists have been interested in human development. I will suggest that within the field of psychological anthropology, interest in human development has been motivated by two main concerns. One is a reluctance to let psychologists define the parameters of normal psychological development on the basis of a highly selected population – that is, the children (mostly white and middle class) of industrialized Western civilization. The second, more central concern that has motivated psychological anthropologists to study human development has been to advance our understanding of culture – what it is, where it resides, and how it gets there. In order to see how this second concern has been expressed, we must look beyond our own ancestors to consider more general intellectual trends in scientific inquiry and its methods. These trends have intersected with psychological anthropologists' research on human development to influence the ways in which we construe culture and the role of human development in cultural processes.
When John Whiting came to publish his dissertation research on childrearing practices in a New Guinea tribe (Whiting 1941), he titled the work “Becoming a Kwoma.” The title was deliberately chosen to express the idea that children are not born with an understanding of their cultural identity, but that they must learn to think and act like members of a particular social group. This theme has received renewed attention under the rubric of “the acquisition of culture” (Schwartz 1981, Harkness 1990), drawing metaphorically from the field of child language to suggest the kinds of mental processes that may be involved in the child's learning of the culture. In both recent models of culture acquisition and earlier formulations of “childhood socialization,” the role of parents is taken as central.
Strangely, however, anthropologists have rarely examined the processes by which parents learn to be parents in a manner consistent with the beliefs and practices of their own culture. In traditional societies where the ethnographer could at least imagine a time before contact with western culture, the task of learning to be a parent as part of learning the culture may have seemed fairly straightforward. Ethnographic accounts of traditional societies in East Africa, for example, detail how children are trained to be child nurses at an early age, how they learn the lore of married life through the circumcision ceremonies, and how they begin married life and parenthood under the close supervision of their elders.
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