Ethnic and cultural variations in children's independence by ordinal position and gender

Ron Shouval, Esther Shouval, Sophie Kav-Venaki, Ruth Sharabany

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studied a child's autonomy in relation to birth order. It was hypothesized that modern Westernized families, well aware of the effects of differential treatment of children of different birth orders or gender, try to compensate for the family dynamics that may result from such differential treatment. In more traditional, authoritarian, or patriarchal societies, differential treatment by birth order and sex are regarded as natural and given. An autonomy multiple-choice measure was administered to 320 11-, 12-, and 13-yr-olds from 8 schools in each of 8 cities and towns in Israel. Ss were divided according to their father's ethnic group—Israeli, Eastern (Sephardic), and Western (Ashkenazi)—and according to whether they were the first-, second-, or thirdborn in families with 2 or 3 children. Across the total sample, with ethnic groups combined, there were no differences in autonomy according to birth order when family size was controlled. Significant differences were found, however, in Eastern 2-child families (a significant ordinal position effect on a subscale of the autonomy measure). No ordinal or sex differences in Israeli or Western 2- or 3-child families were found. In Eastern 3-child families, birth order had a significant effect on peer autonomy, with secondborns being lower in this trait than first- or thirdborns. Implications for controlling the numbers of children in families and for cultural differences in childrearing are noted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-21
Number of pages18
JournalIndividual psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1984
Externally publishedYes


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