The Primitive Mind and Modern Man

Indexed in: Scopus, EBSCO

This book is in the field of cultural anthropology and transcultural psychology, and is intended for college courses in anthropology and psychology, and general readership. The book focuses on ...
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Child Rearing and the Treatment of Children in Primitive Cultures

Pp. 255-259 (5)

John Alan Cohan


There is great diversity among cultures in the way children are reared and treated as they grow up. In many cultures there is a strict taboo prohibiting any contact or communication between brother and sister, so as to avoid incest. In some cultures mothers tend to hold their children away from them, avoid eye contact, and generally minimize emotional responses of their infants. In other cultures people avoid punishing children for fear that their sensitive little souls may leave them and they will die, whereas in some cultures even young children are severely punished if they cry too much. It is not uncommon for parents to arrange marriages while their children are still very young. Among the Druze people, it is believed that the soul of the deceased reincarnates into a newborn baby almost immediately. Among the Beng people, infants are thought to be capable of understanding all languages spoken to them. Until recent times, in primitive cultures it was the custom to sacrifice the first-born child of a family. This seems to have been a kind of sympathetic magic in which the parents offered their firstborn in exchange for favors bestowed by the gods. Among the Berawan people it is the custom for parents to give up their babies for adoption if certain bad omens occur during the mother’s pregnancy. The custom of couvade still exists in many parts of the world, whereby the father of a newborn child must lie in bed for at least a month, with the child by his side, while the mother carries on her usual activities.


Western State Law School USA.