Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of


Date of this Version

May 1989


Published in Young Children 44:4 ( May 1989),
Copyright © 1989 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Used by permission.


Today, in the United States, teachers often need to understand what behaviors are normal in terms of children's cultural background. To understand children, teachers of course must have authentic respect for cultural diversity. But they also need something more: depth of knowledge about child development so they know what to expect of children of a given age. Teachers hold internal guidelines regarding many behaviors, but to what degree are they objective standards that can be applied to all children? How much, instead, do they reflect unconscious cultural biases? In recent years, we have begun to find out more about people’s different expectations for children. One useful approach to studying cultural beliefs about childhood is to compare groups on what are called "developmental timetables." Timetables are expectations people hold about at what age children typically master various skills, such as sitting up, offering a toy, and using words. Adults who parent or work with children use these timetables as implicit guidelines to assess whether children are developing within normal limits.