Psychology, Department of

 

Date of this Version

1989

Citation

Edwards, C.P. (1989). The transition from infancy to early childhood: A difficult transition, and a difficult theory. In V.R. Bricker & G.H. Gossen (Eds.), Ethnographic Encounters in Southern Mesoamerica: Essays in Honor of Evon Z. Vogt, Jr. (pp. 167‑175). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press

Abstract

The transition from infancy to early childhood was observed in households in rural Zinacanteco households in the Highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, in 1968-1969, and found to be a fairly lengthy period of upset, disturbance, listlessness, and apathy for the children, leading eventually to their accepting a new position in the family. The transition involved three abrupt and harsh changes: (1) abrupt weaning from the mother’s breast; (2) simultaneous change in sleeping arrangements from lying next to the mother to sleeping with siblings; and (3) more gradual transfer of the child’s primary care from the mother to older siblings or courtyard cousins. This paper discusses the discrepancy between this picture and the description of toddlerhood as usually described in the Western literature: the child actively resisting parental authority and striving for autonomy (the “terrible twos”). The paper concludes that normal human development does not appear to involve an infinite number of scripts (as many anthropologists once thought) or just one optimal script (as many psychologists claimed), but rather a determinable set of distinct patterns.