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Influences on Child Development

How gender, cultural factors and family influences affect child development between the ages of four and eight years old


This research report will investigate how gender, cultural factors and family influences affect child development between four and eight years old, during emotional literacy acquisition. To investigate this question, a literature review research methodology has been employed. Academic databases were selected, and a series of specific keywords were developed in line with the scope of this research.


The selected databases for this study were: PubMed, Science Direct, Wiley Library and Sage Journals. As indicated by Aveyard (2014), the databases selected need to be in line with the topic investigated. Considering that these databases present biological, social and psychological information from peer-reviewed journals, the aforementioned bases were selected.

Keywords were developed based on natural vocabulary. This indicates that the keywords used were derived naturally from the topic investigated (i.e. child development gender age four to eight). The results of obtained on the databases with the keywords developed is presented in Appendix 1.

After the literature was located via the aforementioned method, specific inclusion and exclusion criteria were devised to further select studies. The main inclusion criteria focused on child development studies, within the specified age range (four to eight) with particular emphasis on gender influence, family influence and the influence of cultural factors. To apply the inclusion and exclusion criteria, the selection of the literature was conducted as recommended by Aveyard (2014) through title read, abstract read and finally by reading articles throughout. A total number of 1070 articles were located through the selected databases. After applying the inclusion/exclusion criteria through title reads, only 30 articles remained. Abstract reads further eliminated 5 articles, thus leaving 25 articles to be read throughout. After this assessment, only 15 articles were considered for further analysis as these matched best the needs of this research.


The selected studies present qualitative, mixed (interviews, cross-sectional, cohort) as well as quantitative methodologies. The majority of this literature seems to indicate that there are several connections between the selected domains of child development.

While Martin et al. (2016) and Martin and Ruble (2013) demonstrated that children as young as four have gender perception, Levtov et al. (2014) indicates through analysis of the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) that male children who are exposed to gender equality practice tend to lean away from the usual stereotype of girl and boy. The findings of this study resonate with Bandura’s theory of observational learning, whereby children observe a behaviour and imitate it (Newman and Newman, Forthcoming 2018; Bandura, 1991). Additionally, the findings of this study also resonate with social theories developed by Lev Vygotsky, whereby child development is influenced by the cultural context in which he/she is raised (Vygotsky and Cole, 1978; Daniels, 2014). Lintdberg et al. (2013) also demonstrated that even from the second grade, gender stereotyping of math results in girls having less interest for this domain.

Endendijk et al. (2016) add to the concept of gender family influences, whereby the authors found that parents tend to engage in more physical control with boy rather than girls. Where no gender stereotypic belief is present, parents tend to show more physical control towards the girls. The author correlates these findings with aggressive behaviour in children.

In relation to family implications and gender Uebergang et al. (2017) found that the lower the socio-economic status, the less likely it is for children to exhibit sleep hygiene in a critical development time of their lives (4-6 years old). While family control is relevant, boys seem to be more affected by this at a cognitive level. Abajobir et al. (2017) also found that in families where children have suffered from maltreatment at a young age, delinquency and negative social behavior is present later on. This indicates that negative family life results in negative social outcomes for child development. Surprisingly, Nguyen et al. (2017) demonstrated that mental health issues in child development is more likely in deprived families yet it is also more likely in high-income families. Additionally, Koutra et al. (2012) found that maternal depression correlates with poor neuro-psychological and behavioural development of children. Farrant and Zubrick (2013) argue that parent-child reading aids in cognitive development by improving vocabulary acquisition while Taylor et al. (2013) and Krishna et al. (2015) argues that the family socio-economic status of a four-year-old is linked to risk of poor language acquisition. In this sense, Kalil et al. (2014) argues that not all children receive the same time investment in different family times. The best outcomes are seen in a nuclear family with both biological parents are present.

Another study conducted by Shahaeian et al. (2014) demonstrates that being raised in a different culture results in different child development outcomes. The authors investigated the applications of Theory of Mind (ToM) for western and non-western children by using the ToM scale. It was concluded that non-western children had better development in perceiving sarcasm and knowledge access while western children showed greater awareness of diversity. Kuwabara and Smith (2012) also demonstrated that child development in relation to attention to objects is also correlated with culture.

Discussion and Conclusion

Through the age of four to eight years old, children become increasingly more skilled in vocabulary and social skills tasks but also develop emotionally. Nevertheless, as demonstrated by the research investigated, family dynamics and implications, cultural influences and gender play an important part in how development is achieved. In relation to gender, this has been demonstrated to influence academic preference, parental behaviour towards the child as well as risk of aggressive behaviour. Moreover, in relation to culture, gender was shown to play a significant role in stereotyping, which seems to be malleable, thus manageable towards equality. Cultural dynamics are also complex, whereby various studies demonstrated that children raised in different cultures will have developed different skills at certain stages of development. Finally, family life seems to aid in emotional development and social behavior while the socio-economic status of the family seems to be more connected with achievement and mental health. It is worth mentioning that other studies have shown that negative family dynamics and poor social status or on the contrary, high social status are connected with child developmental issues.


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