India is composed of a diverse population with assorted religious, political and cultural views on child-rearing practices. With so many differences among Indians, it is impossible to ascribe a unified set of customs and beliefs about child-rearing to the entire country. Influential factors on child-rearing practices such as socioeconomic status, education and individual experience vary from family to family.
According to Infochange, India has 375 million children. Around the turn of the millennium, approximately 75 million children did not have adequate nutrition. This is one example of how social differences can relate to discrepancies in lifestyle, including health, access to education and attitudes toward child-rearing practices.
Another example of differing attitudes emerges from data gathered by the Berlin-Institut. In some regions, such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, each woman has an average of more than four children. In others, the average is less than two. These numbers reveal that differences exist within smaller segments of the Indian nation.
Babyzone reports that Indian mothers spend a lot of time in close physical contact with their young children. As babies, Indian children might receive a daily massage and sharing a parent's bed is quite common. For the first six months, around 90 percent of mothers in India breastfeed, according to Childinfo.org. Some continue to do so for up to two years, but the numbers drop off sharply after the first half year of life. A 2008 University of Mysore study, "Childrearing Practices Among Kurubas and Soliga Tribes from South India," reveals that showing affection can greatly benefit a child's personality development.
The Mysore study on tribes from South India found that mothers often take on the main role of both disciplinarian and nurturer. That is not to say that fathers do not participate in their children's lives; they generally do, but as more of a background player.
Discipline can take many forms, including physical punishment. In "Child Abuse and Neglect: Cross-cultural Perspectives," professor Thomas Poffenberger examines disciplinary techniques in India. "Although a peasant society such as rural India may dictate child treatment that would be considered abusive in the United States," he writes, "there is probably less of the extreme, irrational abuse that is common in the West." Poffenberger suggests that regular proximity of extended family members serves as a dampening influence on anger. Not all parents choose direct punishment; according to his research, some prefer methods such as deprivation as a form of discipline.
Many Indian parents prefer male children over females. The CIA's World Factbook indicates that there are more males than females in every age group in India except those older than 65. An NDTV article from 2010 acknowledges the ongoing fact that "female fetuses are often aborted after a couple sees an ultrasound." Similarly, Poffenberger posits that neglecting female children, even to the point of death, may meet with "at least passive support" in some regions of India. It is clear that male and female children are often treated differently, with girls regarded as less valuable in some families.
- Infochange: Children: Background and Perspective
- Childinfo.org: Statistics by Area/Child Nutrition
- Childrearing Practices Among Kurubas and Soliga Tribes from South India
- Berlin-Institut: India's Population Policy
- "Child Rearing and Social Structure in Rural India" in "Child Abuse and Neglect: Cross-cultural Perspectives"; Thomas Poffenberger
- CIA - The World Factbook (India)
- NDTV: Defusing India's Population Time Bomb
- Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images