Children's Nurturance and Self-Determination Rights: A Cross-Cultural Perspective


  • We wish to thank Leah Skovran, Adam Greteman, Brittany Travers, Judith Flichtbeil, Joshua Berg, and Nicole Neff for their help with data collection. We are grateful to the staff of the participating schools and the children for sharing their valuable time and insights with us. Preliminary data were presented at the 2003 Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development in Tampa, Florida, and the 2005 Midwestern Psychological Association in Chicago, Illinois.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Isabelle D. Cherney, Creighton University, Department of Psychology, Omaha, NE 68178 [e-mail:].


Increasing awareness of children's developmental needs and rights has led to a global move toward giving children and adolescents a greater degree of autonomy in the decisions affecting their own lives. This article presents two studies examining the role of culture and religion in 12-year-old children's perceptions of their rights across three cultures. The first study showed that U.S. and Swiss children advocated for more self-determination rights than Chinese-Malaysian children; U.S. and Chinese-Malaysian children advocated for more nurturance rights than Swiss children. Within the Chinese-Malaysian sample, Buddhist children were more likely to advocate for self-determination rights as compared to Christian children. Using a revised Children's Rights Interview (rCRI), the second study showed that on average U.S. and Chinese-Malaysian children were more likely to advocate for self-determination rights than nurturance rights. However, there were no significant differences between the two cultural groups in terms of the overall responses. The results of the studies are discussed in terms of the cultural orientation and constructivist frameworks.