• AN ADLERIAN INTERPRETATION OF CHILD BEHAVIOR IN A MEXICAN INDIAN COMMUNITY

      Christensen, Oscar; Crowder, Carolyn Zoe (The University of Arizona., 1980)
      The Adlerian psychological model has long been used in Western Europe and in the United States and Canada as a framework for understanding individual behavior and for conducting family counseling. The model is based on values of equality, mutual respect and cooperation. Parents are taught techniques and attitudes which will facilitate responsible and cooperative behavior in their children and induce more positive relationships among family members. The field of Anthropology has provided a multitude of studies examining family life in less-technologically complex societies. However, the Adlerian model, which provides a paradigm for interpreting interpersonal relationships, has never been used by researchers. This study utilized Adlerian theory in examining child-behavior, parent-child relationships and parenting attitudes among Zapotec Indians in a remote mountainous area of Oaxaca, Mexico. The people of the village in this study numbered 350 and were engaged in subsistence-agriculture. Open-ended interviews were conducted with adults concerning cooperation at the village and family levels and the cooperative and non-cooperative behavior of their children. Intensive observations were conducted in six families, during which all behaviors of children in each family along with consequent reactions of adults, were logged. Behaviors were then categorized as cooperative or non-cooperative according to certain criteria and tallied for each child. The sample contained 19 children who demonstrated cooperative behaviors, 83% of the time. Nine of the children fell into the 90-100% cooperative behavior range. Children carried out, to a lesser degree, most of the adult work tasks. In addition, they regularly served as caretakers for younger siblings. Parental attitudes elicited through the interviews reflected a preference for giving counsel or advice over physical punishment, a toleration of differences in children, a willingness to allow children to work at their own pace and an understanding of the adult "role" in child misbehavior. Adler's basic premise was that when children are allowed to belong to the family group in a constructive meaningful way, they do not need to find a place of significance through destructive means. This premise was confirmed by this study. Zapotec children begin around the age of three to participate in the family's daily work tasks. They seem to cooperate out of a recognition of the necessity of their contribution rather than as a result of any autocratic parenting behaviors on the part of adults. Since all work is valued, children grow-up in an atmosphere which allows and needs their constructive input.