What is the most important influence on child development | Tom Weisner | TEDxUCLA

what is the most important thing in

cello development this is something we

should really care about because we all

want to improve the well-being in the

lives of kids so what are the most

important things in child development

I'd like you to help me to get started

so think of a child really do it like

bring up a child in your mind's eye

close your eyes think of that child you

got it

now if you could do something the most

important thing to influence the life of

that child what would you do when I've

asked this question the Western

audiences there's a whole litany of

important things provide attachment

security good nutrition provide it with

good playmates stimulation lots of


perhaps a religious or spiritual pathway

which will be important to the child

provide a trust fund so that the child

will have resources as it grows older

some of the parents in the audience I

mention other things like it's the

toilet training just get me through the

toilet training or get my kid to sleep

or they bring the homework sheets home

and then they get lost so there are a

lot of things that we think of as

important things in child development

all all those things are important and

of course there's no one thing that

would be the only important thing none

of these in my view are the most

important thing the most important thing

you could do would be to decide or think

about where in the world is that child

growing up all the things that we think

of about the child depend on the context

in which the child and its family are

living what family what neighborhood

what community what nation state will

that child's life pathways be determined

in most of the things we think of

nutrition having a trust fund that

religious pathway is there one religious

pathway are there many what is that

religious pathway entail all of these

things depend on the child in some


context most of us when we do this and

many of you probably brought up in your

mind a child sort of floating in space

now for analytic or research reasons it

might be useful to think of a childhood

is an autonomous person but that child

does not exist the only children that

exists are children in the world who

really live there and the importance of

keeping the context in mind needs to be

brought out more strongly in how we

think about kids and how we try to

improve their well-being I first saw

this one as a young anthropologist I

went to Kenya I was studying the effects

of urban migration on children there

I've subsequently done many research

projects to try to improve the lives of

kids or at least understand that in

different places around the world and in

the US and when you go to other parts of

the world or you know people from there

you see the power of contextual and

cultural differences on children's lives

by learning about the rest of the world

will understand better how to take care

of kids here and everywhere the way when

we think about kids is autonomous

individuals it's a way of thinking that

we learn and it's no accident that we've

learned that for one thing we live in a

weird society weird is an ironic but

useful Afrin ism acronym for Western

educated industrialized rich and

democratic societies now about 12% of

the world live in such a society and

most of the research that we hear about

and the experts that we hear about in

the context we're in come from other

weird societies so we have learned to

bracket the context out and just think

about the child as an individual in a

weird Society research is in the same

way mostly from weird societies in

psychology for example over 90% of the

research studies are done in weird

societies with samples from those parts

of the world

if you're an undergraduate in a college

or university in the West like some of

you here you are four thousand times

more likely to be in a research study

than a randomly selected person from the

rest of the world what if we take

account of the other 88% because by

doing that we'll see the importance of

context much more clearly fortunately

there's a wonderful rasayan TIFF ik

research literature to help us do that

they're also increasingly people that we

know who have grown up and lived in

those societies and we can go and visit

them to see the importance of this now

even where societies are diverse in

context and the rest of the world way

more so and so you can't possibly see or

understand all of the differences but

I'm going to mention a few that I have

seen myself and that offer an important

and useful contrast to weird societies

one is the importance of social

responsibility and collaborative

learning and social intelligence that

you see in so many cultures and so many

children around the world

unfortunately the parent of one of the

children you see in that slide from a

rural school in Kenya has died and after

lunch all of the children are going to

take those sticks of wood which each of

them have brought a few to school that

morning they're going to put the wood on

their heads they're going to walk to the

child's home pay their condolences and

bring the wood which is needed to

prepare for the funeral

that's coming in the next few days it's

phenomenal the amount of Prentice Shipp

adult child contextual learning that you

see around the world

another is multiple care taking of

children kids are raised by a lot of

different people care is socially

distributed children are very securely

attached but they're attached to a

social setting a family and other

members that help take care of them

they're likely to be part of a community

of care unfortunately large numbers of

children in the world live in very harsh

environments with oppression and

uncertainty and deep poverty and


and toxic environments and chaotic

family situations that often result

girls lives are likely to diverge from

boys as boys and girls get older say

after early childhood so the way girls

lives play out very in way boys lives

very but they're likely to be more

divergent than differentiated than we

find it here the institutions that

children are living in and will grow

into are different

marriage may be collectively a group

arranged inheritance may only go to boys

or may go to older children or that

trust fund may not be available if

you're a younger born child compared to

an older children are more likely to

grow up in large extended families when

are in single mother households that are

very isolated and where there's a very

harsh environment facing many children

so bring up the child again let's do it

again think of the child again where is

the child living what is the world in

which the child is living in and perhaps

the most important thing what kind of

child or person is desirable and

considered morally important in that

community that is one of the most

important things about child development

well-being is the ability of a child to

actively participate in the activities

that that society thinks is important

and desirable so to help children around

the world when we think about this topic

bring up in your mind the context the

whole world around the child and will do

much better at improving the lives of

children everywhere thanks very much