International Study of Parents, Children, and Schools
The International Study of Parents, Children, and Schools (ISPCS) is a collaborative international research project that focuses on parents’ cultural belief systems, their instantiation in cultural practices of childrearing, and the relationship between these beliefs and practices at home and teachers’ beliefs and practices in the organization of children’s learning environments at school. Our approach is based on an elaboration of the “developmental niche,” a theoretical framework for understanding the interface between child and culture (Harkness & Super, 1996; Super & Harkness, 1999).
The ISPCS was initiated in 1995, with core support from the Spencer Foundation, bringing together researchers from seven countries for an initial planning meeting in Leiden, The Netherlands. The lead investigators brought to this project a rich mixture of disciplinary backgrounds and research interests: they included Giovanna Axia (University of Padua, Italy), Jesus Palacios (University of Seville, Spain); Andrzej Eliasz (Advanced School of Social Psychology and Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland); Barbara Welles-Nyström (University of Stockholm, Sweden); and the late Harry McGurk (Australian Institute of Family Studies, Melbourne, Australia). Sara Harkness and Charles Super (University of Connecticut, USA) have been the lead investigators for the Dutch and American research in addition to coordinating the overall project.
The study sample in each cultural site consists of approximately 60 families with target children divided evenly into five age-groups balanced for birth order and sex: 6 months, 18 months, 3 years, 4.5 years, and 7 to 8 years. The sample families, recruited mostly through community networks, were broadly middle-class, with one or both parents employed and no major health problems; most of them were nuclear families with both parents present in the home; and parents in each sample were all native-born to that culture. Using a combination of psychological and ethnographic methods, we collected parallel data in each sample on parents’ and teachers’ ideas, on many aspects of child and family life, and on child temperament. Findings from the ISPCS address a variety of theoretical issues including the delineation of cultural models of the child and family, the relationship between culture and child temperament, issues of parenting stress and coping, intergenerational transmission of parenting, and cultural variability in teachers’ models of learning and development.
Findings from the ISPCS have been presented at numerous national and international conferences, including the meetings of the International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development, the Society for Research in Child Development, the American Anthropological Association, the Society for Cross-cultural Research, and the European Society for Developmental Psychology, as well as the European Conference on Personality and the Occasional Temperament Conference. Continuing collaboration among members of the research teams is generating a series of publications in scholarly journals and books, listed below.
For further information on the ISPCS, please contact Sara Harkness.
Harkness, S. & Super, C. M. (Eds.). (1996). Parents’ cultural belief systems: Their origins, expressions, and consequences . New York: Guilford Press.
Super, C. M., & Harkness, S. (1999). The environment as culture in developmental research. In S. L. Friedman & T. D. Wachs (Eds.), Measurement of the environment in developmental research (pp. 279-323). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
ISPCS Publications (selected)
Harkness, S., Zylicz, P. O., Super, C. M., Welles-Nyström, B., Ríos Bermúdez, M., Bonichini, S., Moscardino, U., & Mavridis, C. J. (2011). Children’s activities and their meanings for parents: A mixed-methods study in six Western cultures. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(6), 799-813.
Harkness, S., Super, C. M., Rios Bermudez, M., Moscardino, U., Blom, M. J. M., Rha, J.-H., Mavridis, C. J., Bonichini, S., Huitrón, B., Welles-Nyström, B., Palacios, J., Hyun, O.-K., Soriano, G., & Zylicz, P. O. (2010). Parental ethnotheories of children’s learning. In D. F. Lancy, J. Bock, & S. Gaskins (Eds.), The anthropology of learning in childhood (pp. 65-81). Lanham, MD: Alta-Mira Press.
Super, C. M., Axia, G., Harkness, S., Welles-Nyström, B., Zylicz, P.O., Ríos Bermúdez, M., Bonichini, S., Parmar, P., Moscardino, U., Kolar, V., Palacios, J., & McGurk, H. (2008). Culture, temperament, and the Adifficult child:@ A study in seven Western cultures. European Journal of Developmental Science, 2(1-2), 136-157.
Harkness, S., Blom, M., Oliva, A., Moscardino, U., Zylicz, P. O., Rios Bermudez, M., Feng, X., Axia, G., & Super, C. M. (in press 2007). Teachers’ ethnotheories of the “ideal student” in five Western cultures. Comparative Education, 43(1), 113-135. Reprinted in J. Elliott & E. Grigorenko (Eds.), Western psychological and educational theory in diverse contexts. New York: Routledge.
Harkness, S., Moscardino, U., Rios Bermudez, M., Zylicz, P.O., Welles-Nystrom, B., Blom, M., Parmar, P., Axia, G., & Super, C.M. (2006). Mixed methods in international collaborative research: The experiences of the International Study of Parents, Children, and Schools. Cross-Cultural Research, 40 (1), 65-82.
Harkness, S. (2005). Themes and variations: Parental ethnotheories Western cultures. In K. Rubin & O.B. Chung (Eds.), Parental beliefs, parenting, and child development in cross-cultural perspective . London: Psychology Press.
Harkness, S., Super, C. M., Axia, V., Eliasz, A., Palacios, J., & Welles-Nystrom, B. (2001). Cultural pathways to successful parenting. Newsletter of the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development , 1(38), 9-13.
Harkness, S., Super, C.M., & van Tijen, N. (2000) Individualism and the “Western mind” reconsidered: American and Dutch parents’ ethnotheories of the child. In S. Harkness, C. Raeff, & C.M. Super (Eds.), Variability in the social construction of the child (pp. 23-39). New Directions for Child Development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, No. 87.
Harkness, S., & Super, C.M. (1999). From parents’ cultural belief systems to behavior: Implications for the development of early intervention programs. In L. Eldering & P. Leseman (Eds.), Effective early education: Cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 67-90.). New York: Falmer Press.
Harkness, S. (1998). Time for families. Commissioned commentary for Anthropology Newsletter , November 1998, pp. 1,4.
Harkness, S., & Super, C.M. (1997) “An infant’s ‘three R’s’.” Natural History , October, p. 45.
Super, C. M., Harkness, S., van Tijen, N., van der Vlugt, E., Fintelman, M., & Dijkstra, J. (1996). The “Three R’s of Dutch child rearing and the socialization of infant state. In S. Harkness & C. M. Super (Eds.), Parents’ cultural belief systems: Their origins, expressions, and consequences (pp. 447-466). New York: Guilford Press.