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Helping Without Being Asked as a Cultural Practice


This study examined cultural differences in helping without being asked in an instructional setting, in participating in household work, and in family cultural values regarding helping without being asked. Participants included 38 sibling pairs of 6-10 year-old children of Mexican-heritage background from communities likely to have familiarity with Indigenous practices (whose families have limited experience with Western schooling; "Mexican Indigenous-heritage") and of European-American background from highly schooled families. An exploratory part of the analyses also included 19 sibling pairs of Mexican-heritage children whose families have an extensive experience with Western schooling ("Mexican-heritage Hi Schooling"). Home visits were conducted where an unfamiliar instructor guided the sibling pairs through a science craft activity that presented them with 15 different opportunities to help without being asked. After the activity, the mothers of the children participated in an informal interview about their children's helping with household work and cultural values related to helping without being asked. Results showed more observed helpfulness to the instructor guiding the children through the activity and more initiative in helping without being asked at home by Mexican Indigenous-heritage children than European-heritage children. There was also a positive relationship between children's helping the instructor and their reported initiative in helping at home. Mexican-heritage Hi Schooling children resembled the European-heritage children in the instructional setting and resembled the Mexican Indigenous-heritage children in initiative in helping at home. There was also more importance placed on cultural values of helping without being asked by Mexican-heritage mothers (of both backgrounds) than European-heritage mothers. Findings may help understand how home practices and cultural values related to helping contribute to children's initiative in helping in many situations, including school where it may be unexpected or not allowed.

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