How Culture Identity Impacts Early Childhood Development

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  • 0:04 Culture
  • 0:58 Cognitive Development
  • 1:39 Emotional & Social Development
  • 3:00 Physical Development
  • 3:44 Language Development
  • 4:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we explain the ways in which cultural identity impacts cognitive, emotional, social, physical, and language development in children ages 2-5 and provide examples for each developmental domain.


Let's think a minute about the different things that may be considered part of a person's culture. What could we include? Most definitely art, clothing, food, music, and religion, just to name a few. But why is this important? Well, no matter where we live or what we do, our cultural background gives us a sense of identity, something we learn when we're very young.

America is a beautiful melting pot, infused with a variety of colors, cultures, ethnic backgrounds, languages, and religions. However, it can be difficult to both learn and teach when there are cultural differences. That's why it's important for educators to identify and understand how culture impacts early childhood development in order to help all children feel safe, confident, and loved. Let's take a look at the five major developmental domains through which children grow and progress, and see how they are impacted by culture.

Cognitive Development

Cognitive development refers to how we learned and think. Our brains do the most growing from ages zero to three. How is our learning impacted by our culture? Well, cultural identity might influence cognitive development in the following areas:

  • Cultures that integrate musical performance into daily life may see the benefits of creative thinking on cognitive development.
  • Cultures that value the math and science fields are likely to foster this kind of cognitive development.
  • Cultures with limited diversity or strained intercultural dynamics can leave one group feeling superior or inferior to another (think sexism and racism).

Emotional & Social Development

A child's emotional development can also be impacted by their culture. Emotional development is how children learn to process their feelings. Children who have strong religious convictions may have emotional and spiritual support networks to help them develop emotionally. On the other hand, some children who have had the opposite experience within their religious community are emotionally stunted. Some cultures are more emotive than others and so children from more reserved cultures may not have the same exposure to outward expressions of the full range of human emotion.

Culture can have positive and negative effects on social development. Social development refers to getting along with others. Children benefit from diverse social experiences that foster a culture of acceptance and inclusion. Sometimes cultural identity helps with social development by providing shared interests and activities to enjoy. Children learn to articulate their culture and share with others by comparing interesting cultural topics with each other.

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