Babies has access to Western medicine, but surprisingly

Babies is a documentary that follows four
babies from different regions of the world. Each baby is from a different
culture, allowing the viewer to compare different customs of each culture and
how they impact development. The film has no narration or talking, allowing
viewers to focus on the babies howthey interact with their surroundings. The
babies are: Ponijao from Namibia, Mari from Japan, Bayar from Mongolia, and
Hattie from California. They are from very different cultures, which shows how
each culture can impact the child’s development. The film watches as each child
grows up, unaware of the cameras. It is unscripted, raw footage of each child
in their surroundings. It shows the babies develop physically, cognitively, and
socially as they grow from birth to age one. The infancy and toddlerhood period
are “from birth to two years old, and it brings changes in the body and brain
that support the emergence of a wide array of motor, perceptual and
intellectual capacities” (Berk & Meyers, 2016, p.6).

The film allows viewers to get
greater insight to the differences in child rearing practices in different
cultures across the globe. Each culture is special and different, providing
insight to the positives and negatives of each way of upbringing. It is assumed
that the Western upbringing is the best, as it has access to Western medicine,
but surprisingly that is not the case. Each culture has different methods of upbringing
that reflects its culture.

Food and shelter are resources that
are needed in every human life, and the right to that is protected through the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Every baby also needs parental love and
support, human interaction and care. However, there are some resources that
some cultures deem invaluable and others find unnecessary. The two cultures
represent the difference between material and non-material culture. In Western
culture, for Hattie, toys, educational movies, baby classes, etc. are seen as
resources that parents must provide for their children. In Western culture,
many people think this is the answer. Hattie went to yoga class, for example,
even though many adults don’t even bother with this activity. In Mongolia,
Bayar was not given any plastic toys, movies, or yoga classes. Even though they
were raised in different environments, their development was similar. They all
crawled, began to walk, and talk. Some were faster than others, but they all
were able to take steps and begin to speak. This showed how environmental
factors impact a baby and their development rate, but it is not a very big
significance. The children are still developing well and growing up.

Bianca Mendonça, Barbara Sargent,
and Linda Fetters did a study to “investigate whether standardized motor
development screening and assessment tools that are used to evaluate motor
abilities of children aged 0 to 2 years are valid in cultures other than those
in which the normative sample was established” (Mendonça, 2016). They performed
twenty-three studies representing six motor development screening and
assessment tools in 16 cultural contexts met the inclusion criteria: Alberta
Infant Motor Scale (n=7), Ages and Stages Questionnaire, 3rd edition (n=2),
Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, 3rd edition (n=8), Denver
Developmental Screening Test, 2nd edition (n=4), Harris Infant Neuromotor Test
(n=1), and Peabody Developmental Motor Scales, 2nd edition (n=1). Thirteen
studies found “significant differences between the cultural context and
normative sample” (Mendonça, 2016). Two studies established “reliability and/or
validity of standardized motor development assessments in high-risk infants
from different cultural contexts” (Mendonça, 2016). Five studies “established
new population norms” (Mendonça, 2016). Eight studies described the
“cross-cultural adaptation of a standardized motor development assessment”
(Mendonça, 2016). They found “that standardized motor development assessments
have limited effectiveness in cultures other than that in which the original
sample was established” (Mendonça, 2016). This means that it is difficult to
assess how well a baby or toddler is developing between two cultures for their
cultural traits, because each culture values different attributes. Bayar and
Hattie were able to learn and complete the same tasks in the end, but it is
difficult to say which was more effective, as the cultures are so different.

The babies’ “information
processing, intelligence, reasoning, language development, and memory also
developed throughout the movie” (Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning,
2016), which is known as cognitive development. Each child lives in a different
environment and interacts differently as a result of this. Their cultures both
value socialization, but Hattie’s culture has more agents of socialization. While
Hattie lives in a big city full of industrialized toys, Bayar had sticks,
rocks, animals, and mud. They also formed their language skills through
interaction with others. Hattie interacted with her mother a lot, but often Bayar
was lying down by himself. Hattie began talking faster as she had that
interaction. Bayar did not interact with his mother as much. He sometimes cried
when he was by himself, but there was no one around to comfort him. This may
have caused him to act aggressively. For example, when he petted the cat he was
rough, and even pulled his hair. He was not shown kindness through human
interaction. His brother also hit him with a cloth, making him to cry. His
older brother tormented him, who repeatedly hits him with a scarf. Bayar wails,
but at the same time, he waits eagerly for the next whack, proving that
negative attention is better than none at all. He is often upset and angry.

Hattie is an only child, so she was taken to classes, presumably to interact
with other babies.

A study by Chun-Hao Chiu, Chu-Sui
Lin, Gerald Mahoney, Shu-Fen Cheng, and Shu-Hui Chang found that “the
relationship between mothers’ responsive style of interaction and children’s
rate of development was mediated by the simultaneous relationship between
mothers’ responsiveness and children’s social engagement, or pivotal behavior”
(Chun-Hao, et al., 2017). They wanted to determine “whether children’s pivotal
behavior might also mediate the relationship between responsiveness and child
development in a sample of 165 typically developing toddlers and their parents”
(Chun-Hao, et al., 2017). They observed the parents and their children and
discovered that “parental responsiveness was correlated with children’s pivotal
behavior, and that both of these variables were correlated with children’s
symbolic behavior” (Chun-Hao, et al., 2017). This means that Hattie is more
likely to show positive developmental results, as her parents provide her with
more interaction. Bayar is provided with less interaction, so he is less likely
to develop as quickly. This is important to their development because Hattie
has a higher chance at succeeding. Hattie is not provided with any material
items that are helping her, and it can be inferred that her faster development
is related to her interaction with her parents, not Western cultural activities
such as yoga. This puts Bayar at a disadvantage. This relates to the study done
by Bianca Mendonça, Barbara Sargent, and Linda Fetters, as it isn’t about the
cultural traditions. What’s being measured is the parental interaction with
their children. Although it is the cultural roles that make Bayar’s mother do
household chores, she could integrate Bayar into her daily routine.

Their culture was very evident
through their interaction with family. Hattie’s parents both work, but they are
“solidly focused on co-parenting” (Focus Features, 2010). They want Hattie to
“trust them equally,” (Focus Features, 2010) so they are both with her as much
as they can be. Her father said, “there’s not one parent that’s in charge and
has all the answers” (Focus Features, 2010). They represent a culture where the
mother and father go out and have jobs, the more modern Western way of life.

Bayar’s family has contrasting philosophies, and execute them quite
differently. They believe that instead of co-parenting and working together,
their “responsibility is fifty-fifty raising childs” (Focus Features, 2010).

They use the tactic of dividing the labour, instead of doing it together as
Hattie’s family does. Bayar’s mother “takes care of things mainly in the
household; that’s why there were more images of they i.e., she and Bayar
being together” (Focus Features, 2010). This is more of the traditional male
and female roles than the ones presented in Western society. His mother
“stays more inside and his father stays outside” (Focus Features, 2010).

This represents the male and female roles in their culture, and explains why
Bayar is often seen alone. While he is outside, his mother is working inside,
and his father is out “taking care of the other bigger part of their
household business” (Focus Features, 2010).

This is reflected through
Mongolia’s marriage laws, and how Mongols typically married young. Girls when
they were 13 or 14 and boys a few years later, and marriages have traditionally
been arranged.  n Mongolia, “dictations
of the nomadic state were intended to anchor social reforms for social benefit
depreciated by new environment” (Dugarova, 2016). This leads to marriage and
raising children to be more of an agreement and partnership than a labour of
love. This means that they split the tasks, instead of working on them together
like they do in America. This reflects the different social structures and how
the family members interact with one another. This explains the different
upbringing presented by Bayar and Hattie’s families.

Another cultural difference is
their subsistence patterns. Mongolia is known for their nomadic traditions,
with more hunter-gatherer societies. Nomads move with the seasons, raising and
breeding goat, sheep, cattle (including yaks), camel and horse, migrating from
place to place following the most favorable pastures and campsites. The United
States has industrial societies, and the population is not part of the hunting
process. The only gathering they have to do is going to the grocery store. This
presents a very different society to Bayar and Hattie, and it shows how
developed each of their civilizations are.

The two cultures are very different
and allow Bayar and Hattie to lead very different lives. They have different
values and traditions, as well as different tactics for upbringing a child. No
one culture does it “better”, but instead both cultures value different things.

The film allows viewers to observe the babies in their natural environments and
grow up, and provides unscripted access to their culture. The viewer can
compare different customs of each culture and how they impact a child’s
development. Mongolian and American cultures are very different, and still the
children are able to develop with similar skills and at similar rates. Their
cultures are able to preserve tradition and raise children as they see fit. It
is important that we have these differences and that children are allowed to be
different.