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Consent and Discipline in Ecuador: How to Avoid Raising an Antisocial Child



Abstract The fear that children may grow up to become “antisocial,” or deviant, directs mothers' behaviors in Ecuador. Mothers teach children about appropriate involvement in society through their continuous engagements. Based on fieldwork with urban, middle-class mothers in Ecuador's largest city, Guayaquil, I document discipline achieved through expressions of disappointment that arise from the removal of usual reinforcements. A previously established set of positive experiences within the child's social milieu provides comparisons that make a mother's rewards or withdrawal of rewards notable to the child. This comparative frame is established through a balance between disciplining and “consenting,” where mothers acquiesce to children's demands to demonstrate the consideration one must have for others. When mothers give in to children's requests this practice itself exemplifies a positive orientation to others intended to prevent future antisocial behavior. Using ethnographic analysis I reveal the subtle dynamics that shape children's socialization in Ecuador to advance understanding of how cultural ideologies guide mothers' behaviors. With this step I offer a reconsideration of existing developmental theory on discipline. [mothering, children, socialization, practice, Ecuador]