Relations of Differences in Parenting to Behavior Problems Among Norwegian and Sami (Laplander) Children

Punitive parenting has often been implicated as a contributor to children’s behavior problems. However, the effects of particular child-rearing practices may differ in relation to a variety of familial and cultural characteristics. To compare correlates of children’s problems in two ethnic groups living in northern Norway, Javo et al. (2004) conducted extensive interviews with parents of 191 Norwegian and Sami 4-year-olds. Interviews were conducted separately with mothers and fathers.

Parents also completed a Norwegian or Sami translation of the CBCL/4-18. Unlike different ethnic groups in some countries, the Norwegian and Sami families did not differ significantly on sociodemographic variables such as education, occupational level, marital status of the parents, or number of children or adults in the household.

However, Sami parents reported significantly less cuddling and permissiveness and significantly more physical punishment and teasing/ridiculing than Norwegian parents. When associations between child-rearing practices and CBCL scores were analyzed for girls, positive correlations were found between physical punishment and Externalizing problems and between teasing/ridiculing and Internalizing problems in both ethnic groups. For boys, by contrast, the following significant differences were found between correlations for the Norwegian versus Sami groups: Physical punishment was positively correlated with Externalizing problems for Norwegian boys (+.34) but negatively correlated for Sami boys (-.16); and teasing/ridiculing was positively correlated with Internalizing for Norwegian boys (+.25) but negatively correlated for Sami boys (-.24). In other words, the findings for Norwegian boys were consistent with other research showing that high levels of punishment are associated with high levels of problem behavior in children.

The opposite patterns found for Sami boys were interpreted as suggesting that “a tougher disciplinary parental style, aimed at hardening (boys) in order to enable them to survive in a harsh environment, may be beneficial rather than harmful” (p. 14). However, “Norwegian children did not seem to profit by harsh treatment . . . In Scandinavian culture, teasing/ridiculing as a mode of child socialization is not so common, and hitting a child is strictly forbidden. Norwegian parents who impose harsh discipline thus do not share their culture’s accepted norms in child-rearing, and probably represent a somewhat deviant type of parenting behavior” (p. 15).

Reference: Javo, C., Ronning, J.A., Heyerdahl, S., & Rudmin, F. W. (2004). Parenting correlates of child behavior problems in a multiethnic community sample of preschool children in northern Norway. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 13, 8-18.