Interactions of Temperament and Culture: The Organization of Diversity in Samoan Infancy



Abstract Many forms of individual variation in early childhood are accommodated via processes of reciprocal adaptation of the child and their “developmental niche.” Although most are minor adaptations, some culturally patterned adjustments can have profound organizational effects on the niche and the child's developmental trajectory. Research conducted in Samoa suggests at least two distinct adaptations of the modal developmental niche for infants and toddlers keyed to different temperamental profiles: interpersonally assertive and behaviorally restrained. I argue that these two different variants of the modal niche emerge from dynamic interplay of different temperamental profiles, ethnotheories of child development, and child-rearing practices. These different niches can be developmentally significant in that they channel the individual's development in contrastive ways and introduce different future developmental challenges and opportunities. My larger point is that these different manifestations of the developmental niche represent one way in which social, cultural, and ecological factors on the one hand, and individual diversity on the other hand, interact to organize and constrain individual diversity. [Child development, temperament, infancy, developmental niche, Samoa]