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Mother-child behaviors were studied in three cultural groups: Caucasian American (CA), overseas Japanese (JPN), and Chinese Vietnamese (CVN) immigrants. The children were sixteen to twenty-five months old, and the appeal cycle, with its descriptive analytic method, was the research paradigm. Group differences were found in appeal cycle occurrence and phase frequencies. CA mothers promoted independence through encouragement of decision making and toddler-initiated play, and through nonintrusive interactions. Neither JPN nor CVN mothers encouraged independence. JPN mothers were subtly directive; CVN mothers overtly so. Generally, CA toddlers played independently, evincing a beginning capacity for self-regulation. JPN and CVN toddlers reacted to separation by staying close to their mothers, and fewer were observed to play independently than in the CA group. CVN toddlers played independently more frequently than JPN toddlers, but less frequently than CA toddlers. Quantitative measures of dyadic behaviors generally support the descriptive findings, though methodological constraints did not permit comparison of phase sequencing. The findings reflect cultural differences in child development thought to influence psychic structure formation.

Original publication





Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association

Publication Date





187 - 215


Seattle Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, USA.


Humans, Cross-Sectional Studies, Social Behavior, Child Development, Self Efficacy, Mother-Child Relations, Decision Making, Cultural Characteristics, Play and Playthings, Adult, Child, Preschool, Infant, European Continental Ancestry Group, United States, Vietnam, China, Japan, Female, Male