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childrearing

MAIN PAGE: DEREK FREEMAN: MARGARET MEAD AND SAMOA

14 Childrearing

The „ease in sex relations“ that Mead claims is so much a feature of Samoan life, especially during adolescence, is „made impossible,“ she argues, „by the whole system of child rearing.“ Samoan children, she asserts, never learn „the meaning of a strong attachment to one person,“ and because early childhood „ does not provide them with „violent feelings“ there are no such feelings to be rediscovered during adolescence. The Samoan family, she claims, is „just a long series of people of different —-ages, all somehow related to one another.“ This means that Samoan children are „given no sense of belonging to a small intimate biological family,“ and so „do not form strong affectional ties with their parents.“ Instead, „filial affection is diffused among a large group of relatives,“ with the result that „in Samoa the child owes no emotional allegiance to its father and

mother,“ and children „do not think of an own mother who always protects them,“ but rather of „a group of adults all of whom have their interests somewhat but not too importantly at heart.“ This view of the relationship between a child and its parents, which is basic to Mead's whole account of adolescence in Samoa, is markedly at variance with the facts of Samoan existence.1

In the 1920s, as Mead has recorded, behaviorism was „treated hospitably“ by American cultural anthropology, and it is notable that her assertions about infancy in Samoa closely reflect the views of J. B. Watson that were fashionable in the United States when Mead was writing about Samoa in the late 1920s and early 1930s. In his Psychological Care of Infant and Child, for example, Watson argued that when a mother picked up and caressed her child she was „slowly building up a human being totally unable to cope with the world it must later live in.“ Instead, he favored as ideal a system in which a mother would not know „the identity of her own child,“ and which, so he predicted, would make of adolescence „just a stretch of fertile years.“ Samoa, as depicted by Mead, had a culture in which these Watsonian conceptions had apparently been fully realized, and, as I have described in Chapter 7, her account was received with something akin to rapture by the behavioristically oriented generation of the late 1920s.2

This was all some years before the publication of Konrad Lorenz's pioneer inquiries on imprinting in birds, which were soon followed by comparable research on mammals, including non-human primates, and then by the work of John Bowlby and others on attachment behavior in the human species. In Bowlby's researches, attachment behavior became intelligible in evolutionary terms as a phenomenon that occurs when certain behavioral systems (such as sucking, crying, smiling, clinging, and following) are activated in an infant within its environment of adaptedness. Thus the attachment of a human infant to its mother is, in Bowlby's words, „a class of social behaviour of an importance equivalent to that of mating behaviour and parental behaviour“ with „a biological function specific to itself.“ During the years 1966 and 1967, assisted by my wife, I made a detailed study of attachment behavior in Samoan infants, including a repetition of the reseaches by René Spitz and others on the onset of smiling behavior.3

As I have reported elsewhere, my inquiries showed that attachment behavior in Samoan infants has all of the characteristics described by Bowlby. In Samoa, as in other human populations, an infant during its first year of life becomes behaviorally attached to its caretaker, whoever she or he may be. For example, when Aperila, who was born on 19 April 1955, was left by her mother, Lei, at five months of age, she was cared for by Uiese (the elder sister of Lei's mother), who was then 59 years old. By 1966 Lei had returned to the village, but it was Uiese to whom Aperila was bonded, sleeping and eating with her and going to her for all her needs. Her genetic mother, Lei, she ignored. Those of the family concerned were well aware of what had happened: „Aperila knows that Lei is her mother, but has no love for her; the heart of Aperila adheres to Uiese.“4

Instances of this kind, in which an infant becomes attached to some caretaker other than its genetic mother, do occur in Samoa, as elsewhere. However, the incidence of such adoptive attachments is low. On 31 December 1967, when there were 483 individuals 18 years of age and under in Sa'anapu village, there were twenty-eight cases of intrafamily and twelve cases of in-terfamily adoption, making a total of forty adoptions in all. This means that approximately 92 percent of individuals 18 years of age and under were living with their genetic parent, or parents. As Mead failed to observe, biological families of parents and their offspring do in fact exist as distinct units within the extended families into which Samoan society is organized; it is customary for a cohabiting couple to have their own living quarters within the cluster of houses belonging to an extended family-

As Mead also describes, there is in Samoa a well-developed system of child-minding in which infants are handed over for extended periods to the care of an older girl, usually a sister or a cousin. This relationship results in the formation of a secondary bond of major significance. This tei relationship does not, however, supplant the attachment of a child to its genetic or adoptive mother. As was clearly evidenced in our study of Samoan infants during their first two years of life, the behavioral attachment of an infant to its mother antedates the formation of a secondary bond to its tei or to any other relative.5

It is a common practice in Samoa to separate an infant from its mother to facilitate weaning. When a male infant we were studying was taken at thirteen months of age to his maternal grandmother in another village, he became so severely depressed and debilitated during a month's separation from his mother that to ensure his survival he had to be reunited with her. After about seven days he began gradually to recover, although after this traumatic separation he would cry whenever his mother made to leave him. Indeed, so attached does a Samoan infant become to his mother that during his early years there is almost always marked emotional agitation at the prospect of her leaving.

We conducted the simple experiment of testing Mead's assertion that in Samoa „filial affection is diffused among a large group of relatives,“ by having the women of an extended family walk away from an infant one at a time. The agitated reaction of the infant to being separated from its own mother (and her alone) demonstrated that attachment in Samoa, as elsewhere, is with but rare exceptions monotropic. Again, when one particular mother moved away from all of the younger children of an extended family, it was only her own children who evinced distress. The primary bond between mother and child is very much a part of the biology of Samoans, as it is of all humans.

The behavior of Samoan children when a death occurs also dramatically demonstrates how intense is the bond between a child and its parents. For example, when a 56-year-old talking chief of Sa'anapu died on 24 July 1966, only his own offspring among the numerous children of his extended family evinced acute distress, in particular his 12-year-old daughter, who reproached her dead father again and again for having abandoned her. Mead's statement that „in Samoa the child owes no emotional allegiance to its father and mother“ is one to which Samoans take particular exception. For example, when I mentioned this assertion to the people of Si'ufaga in Manu'a in 1967

a talking chief immediately responded, „In Samoa the feelings of a child for his parents are most intense.“

Mead also makes the related assertion that in Samoa „residence in the same household with one's parents is not obligatory.“ According to Mead, Samoan children, from the time they can run about, are able to „chose their own homes,“ with the result that few of them „live continuously in one household.“ In Samoa, she says, a child is „serene in the reflection that he can always run away if he wishes,“ and she instances this „freedom of choice“ as „a powerful deterrent of specific adult tyrannies.“6

These statements, which I discussed in Manu'a with informants who well remembered the 1920s, were strongly denied. I was told that under Samoan custom a child is not permitted to change its place of residence without parental approval, and that such approval is seldom granted before a child is 12 or more years of age, and then only in special circumstances. These statements I tested in 1967 by studying all the children of between 3 and 18 years of age from eight neighboring extended families in the village of Sa'anapu. This yielded a total of 108 children, for all of whom reliable observational data were available. Of this total, ten had been adopted. An analysis of the residential behavior of all 108 children showed that 105 of them, or 97 percent, were permanently resident with either their genetic or their adoptive parents. Further, one of the three not in this category was a boy of 7 who had, because of his poor health, been sent to live on the coast with his mother's sister. There were thus only two instances of children having moved out of their parents' household. One was a 14-year-old girl who, after a heavy beating by the adult daughter of her adoptive father, had gone off with the tacit approval of all concerned to live with an aunt in another village. The second was a 15-year-old boy who, after a beating for an attempted surreptitious rape, had gone off to live in another family and had been allowed to remain there. There were also during the years 1966-1967 two children, a boy of 12 and a girl of 8, who attempted to move to a new place of residence. In each of these cases, however, the runaway child was recovered and subjected to severe parental punishment. The boy's hands were tied behind his back and he was made to walk back to his parents' home, a distance of some three miles, with his irate father hitting him from time to time with an iron fishing spear as he walked behind him.

Eleanor Gerber, who worked in Tutuila in 1972-1973, also reports that parents may „display considerable anger“ should a child run away, and that the shaving of a runaway child's head is a common punishment for this offense. One of Gerber's informants suggested that parents would even have a runaway put in jail, while another told her that „if he ran away and stayed in a friend's house for a few nights, he would be afraid that his father would sneak in and attack him with a knife as he slept.“ Mead's claim that in Samoa a child's freedom to choose its own place of residence is „a powerful deterrent of specific adult tyrannies“ is thus at variance with the realities of Samoan existence.7

Mead's account ofthe ethos of the Samoan family is also inadequate. As Mead would have it, within a Samoan extended family an infant is succored by „women of all ages … none of whom have disciplined it.“ „Samoan children,“ she states, „are not carefully disciplined until they are five or six.“ Further, although from this time onward „violent outbursts of wrath and summary chastisements do occur … consistent and prolonged disciplinary measures are absent.“ Samoan culture is thus, according to Mead, „baged.on diffuse but warm relationships,“ in a family setting in which „neither boys or girls are hurried or pressed,“ and this family environment, through the „avoidance of conflict,“ brings its children „through adolescence painlessly.“8

While it is true, as Wilkes noted during his visit to Tutuila in 1839, that Samoan parents are „extremely fond of their offspring,“ it is also true that from infancy onward Samoan children are subjected to quite stringent discipline. Thus Samoan children, as Stair observed during this same period, are alternately „indulged in every wish“ and „severely beaten for the most trivial offence.“ That such punishment is customary in Samoan families has been confirmed by other observers. Holmes, on the basis of his observations in Manu'a in the 1950s, writes of the early training of children being „often accompanied by severe punishment.“ Hirsh, who worked in a village near Apia in 1957, reports that while beatings within the family were not frequent, they were „apt to be severe.“ Cooper, who did field research in Manu'a in the early 1960s, reports children being „severely punished in private,“ and felt Samoan parents to be „extremely harsh,“ and Gerber, writing of family life as she observed it in Tutuila in the early 1970s, states that „by the time a child is three, he is being hit frequently“ for such offenses as making noise and balking at an adult's request. These beatings, Gerber reports, last well into adolescence, and may frequently be severe, there being occasional stories of „children being injured severely enough to require attention in hospital.“ The youngest child she observed being hit was an infant less than three months old.9

As Gerber correctly reports, Samoans believe in „the unique efficacy of pain as a means of instruction“ and that „beatings are necessary to ensure that children will be 'good,' or at least stay out of trouble.“ These beliefs, which were integral to the pagan culture of Samoa, have been powerfully reinforced since the mid nineteenth century by the admonitions of the biblical king Solomon. It was Solomon's belief that „a father who spares the rod hates his son“ and that if a parent will only „train up a child in the way he should go,“ then „even in old age he will not depart from it.“ These admonitions the Samoans have long taken to heart, and when asked why they punish children they answer that this is the best way to teach them what they must not do. The Samoans, then, scold and punish their disobedient children not only in anger but in the pious belief that they are doing right. The consequences of this method of rearing children are, as I shall show, severe.10

The peculiarly Samoan way of administering punishment to children is illustrated in the following account from my field notes of 15 November 1942:

Punishment is almost always physical and severe. Despite the severity of the punishment the child is not permitted to show emotion. Thus, if a child persists in crying aloud the parent continues to punish him, shouting Uma!

Uma! („Have done! Have done!“). Not until the child sits stock still with his legs crossed and head bowed, and suppresses his emotions by not overtly crying, does his punishment cease. This treatment is meted out to young children of both sexes from as young as three or four years of age.

In other words, Samoan children are early taught, through this particular mode of punishment, to accept without question the dictates of those in authority. This specifically Samoan system of discipline, which I had observed in the early 1940s, was still being practiced a generation later in the mid 1960s, as also in the 1980s, with those who had been thus treated during their childhood imposing the same form of punishment on their own young children. This method of dealing with the misbehaving young is used by all those in authority, however marginal; for example, in 1966 I witnessed a 10-year-old boy disciplining his 8-year-old brother in precisely this way.

„When young children are first subjected to this punitive regime it is usual for them to respond with temper tantrums. As Gerber has described, the temper tantrums of young Samoan children (a phenomenon Mead ignores) begin in earnest after a child has been „hit for crying.“ The child will then „throw himself down and wail loudly and rhythmically“ in a display that can last for fifteen or twenty minutes. Of young children in these fits of passion the Samoans say that the seat of their affection is distressed and angered. The anger is almost always directed against someone in authority, such as a mother or older sibling, who has dominated and then punished the child. Often a tantrum becomes violent, with the distraught child flinging his limbs in all directions in repeated paroxysms of passion as he voices his indignation, until at last he collapses from nervous exhaustion.11

Although temper tantrums are indulged for a time, young children sooner or later have imposed on them the traditional Samoan mode of discipline in which they are required, while being punished, to sit cross-legged and to suppress both their anger and their distress. The youngest child I have observed

being subjected to this kind of discipline was eighteen months old: a female infant named Sasa, born on 2 October 1965, was punished by her mother on 18 April 1967 for going out in the sun after having been told not to do so. After hitting her daughter heavily and repeatedly about the head and body with her open hand, the mother shouted angrily: „Have done! Have done! Shut your mouth!“ When the child continued to cry, the mother clamped her hand over the child's mouth to stifle all expression of emotion.

At the outset of this encounter, when she was first smacked,“ Sasa had shouted angrily at her mother the most common of all Samoan expletives, „Eat shit!“ From this and other cases it is plainly evident that when they are forced to suppress their indignation and inhibit their crying Samoan children are subjected to considerable psychological stress. Further, being forced so frequently to assume an outward demeanor fundamentally at variance with their emotions produces in Samoan children an isolation of affect which is of quite fundamental significance in the formation of Samoan character.

As the case of Sasa shows, Samoan children are in fact very seriously disciplined well before the ages of five or six, mentioned by Mead. Of thirty-eight children 10 years of age and under, whose punishment my wife and I observed in Western Samoa in 1966 and 1967, nineteen were under 5 years of age, with eight of these nineteen being under 3 years of age. In Manu'a in 1967 I observed a number of similarly young children being physically punished.

Punishment may also be meted out to a child by any older family member. It is customary for an older to punish a younger sibling. In one of the families in which we lived in 1966-67, a girl of 7 was regularly punished by her brother, aged 9, for all manner of supposed offenses. Further, this punishment of a younger sibling by an older one often closely follows the punishment of the elder by some more senior member of the family. For example, in January 1967, 9-year-old Tunu was very severely beaten with a leather belt by his 42-year-old uncle, receiving numerous bleeding welts on his back. Soon afterward, Tunu launched an unprovoked attack on his 7-year-old cousin, forcing

his head down onto some stones and causing the side of his face to bleed. This redirection of anger and retaliatory aggression following punishment account, in my view, for the fact that, as Holmes and others have observed, „larger children often hit smaller ones with no apparent provocation.“12

The punishment of younger siblings by older ones continues well into adult life. For example, in March 1967, when Papa, 33 years old and a married woman with three children, did not prepare an evening meal as she had been told to do, her 53-year-old sister hit her heavily, several times, over the head. Similarly, some parents continue to punish their daughters long after they have become adults. An extreme case of this occurred on a Sunday in March 1967, when a 53-year-old talking chief began beating his 30-year-old daughter because she had not obeyed his instruction to have food ready at the close of the afternoon church sevice. So severe was this beating that others of the family intervened to lead the father away, while his daughter, who was in an advanced stage of pregnancy (she gave birth to her seventh child some twelve days later) wailed aloud in distress. The response of her 54-year-old mother was to shout at her daughter, just as though she were still a child: „Have done! Have done! Don't open your mouth so!“

Occasionally those in authority punish a child so severely that a lasting injury is inflicted. In one case that I investigated, a pastor's wife, whom I had known in 1943 as a devoutly religious woman, struck her 14-year-old second cousin over the back with a heavy carrying stick with such force as to cause a crippling and permanent injury to her spine. In other cases, as I learned from my researches in the police records of Western Samoa, the punishment of a child may be fatal. For example, in Savai'i in April 1958 a 12-year-old girl, after being heavily punished by her 19-year-old brother, died from a cerebral hemorrhage. And in Upolu in August 1963, a 53-year-old man, angered by the disobedience of his 13-year-old son during a ceremony, jabbed the boy in the back of his head with the end of an umbrella, causing brain damage from which the boy died two days later.13

Samoan social organization, then, is markedly authoritarian and depends directly on a system of severe discipline that is visited on children from an early age. By the time this discipline begins to be imposed, the great majority of children are already bonded to their mothers. The mother is thus experienced as alternately caring and punishing. This means that she comes to be feared and hated as well as loved and longed for, a combination of emotions that, in addition to producing ambivalence, significantly intensifies the feelings of an infant for the individual to whom it is bonded. The initial reaction of an infant to the onset of maternal punishment is usually one of anger, and I have observed young children actually attack the mothers who are chastising them. This response is soon beaten out of a child, however, as it is coerced into submitting to discipline out of fear of even heavier punishment.

The physical infliction of punishment is also commonly accompanied by scolding and verbal threats. For example, in May 1966 I heard a 40-year-old mother shout at her 2-year-old son, who was crying after being punished, „Stop it! or I'll break your neck!“ Such threats continue well into adolescence, as when a mother threatened her disobedient 15-year-old daughter that she would return as a ghost and devour her.

The fact that children submit to discipline does not mean that they cease to feel intense resentment toward those who punish them. The reaction of the eighteen-month-old Sasa to being smacked by her mother was to shout „Eat shit!“ This same imprecation is often angrily muttered by older children after being punished. Children who have especially punishing mothers may come to harbor death wishes against them. For example, in April 1967, when the corpse of a chief's wife was brought into Sa'anapu village prior to burial, an 8-year-old girl who had been subjected to much heavy punishment was heard to remark how good it would be if her adoptive mother were likewise dead.

When my wife and I talked to children of how they felt about the stringent discipline to which they were subjected, it became clearly evident that they experienced severe punishment as a terrifying attack. Further, they would sometimes confess to feelings of intense anger and hatred toward their punishing mothers. Thus, while outwardly expressing nothing but love, respect, and obedience to those in authority, children of 6 or 7 would, when we gave them paper and crayons, depict their mothers as threatening monsters.14

Samoan folklore is inhabited by towering and ferocious ogresses, with staring eyes and lolling tongues, who tear their victims apart as they devour them, as also by female spirits who suddenly change in appearance. One of these is Sauma'iafe, who may take on either the appearance of a beautiful maiden with long tresses of black hair and an enchanting smile or that of an ugly old woman much given to hitting people. This fickle phantom, who is known throughout Samoa, is an obvious projection of the Samoan mother. It is also a manifestation of the deep-seated ambivalence generated in Samoans by the form of the punitive discipline to which they are subjected in infancy and childhood, an ambivalence that is basic to the structure of Samoan character.15


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childrearing.txt · Poslední úprava: 2024/05/29 19:36 autor: 127.0.0.1