Parenting: why one size doesn’t fit all

Nicola Dawson, University of the Witwatersrand

There are a few established “rules” for being a good parent.


Praise your children for their achievements, big or small. Be warm and happy when you’re around them. Smile at them and stay upbeat. When it comes to babies, make lots of face to face verbal contact. Look at and talk to them while they babble and play.

These approaches are based on extensive studies that seek to understand the relationship between parenting and child outcomes. Again and again, research has found that parenting behaviours have a huge impact on child development and success, from school performance to good peer relationships. The conclusion? Parenting matters and certain ways of parenting are better than others.

But how much does where you live or grew up influence how you parent? And are the same parenting techniques relevant in every setting? This is what I have studied while researching my PhD.

Research gaps

Most research into child development and parenting has been conducted in the West – specifically in North America and Eastern Europe. It is done by Western researchers studying Western children with Western parents. But only 12% of the world’s children and parents live in the West. The vast majority of families in huge swathes of the world have not been studied. What researchers currently know, and what’s presented as “optimal parenting”, can only be assumed to explain a small group of people.

Research conducted elsewhere in the world suggests that cultural context is an important consideration when it comes to parenting and child development. It has also found that while some aspects of good parenting are universal, others look very different from country to country.

Praise, face-to-face verbal contact and putting on a warm, positive attitude when around your children are not found universally. They are not assumed to be as important in some places – like Alexandra in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I am conducting my research – as they are in Western contexts.

Parenting in context

My study in Alexandra, which many people call by its nickname, Alex, has backed up an idea that’s emerging in parenting research from elsewhere in the developing world. This is the notion that parenting practices are and should be intimately related to the context, culture and social values in which a child is being raised.

For example, a child raised in New York’s Westchester County needs to fit in and function in his individualistic culture. Where he’s from, success is likely measured by personal career achievements and individual social standing. This means he will likely need a good job.

To find a job, he will probably need a good Western education. To get a good Western education he will need confidence, good verbal skills and a friendly, smiley disposition. So, as a baby, it makes sense that he will need a chatty, smiley mother who praises and encourages him.

The causal chain is somewhat different for a child growing up in Alexandra, a densely populated area with primarily informal dwellings. It has a very high crime rate, high levels of drug use and domestic violence, and low levels of employment. Important child outcomes are different for parents in this context. Keeping your children away from drugs and out of trouble are far bigger concerns than how many friends they have.

Culturally – as is the case across the African continent – collectivism is valued over individualism in Alexandra. Children are considered to have been raised well if they respect their elders and comply with traditional practices. Modesty is valued. This may mean that effusive praise is discouraged, because it’s seen as putting an individual’s success ahead of a group’s. Parents aren’t trying to build confidence to achieve personal success. Instead, they are focused on building protective strategies and compliance.

Seeking a culturally specific parenting approach

As with any society, some parents in Alex are getting things right while others are not. Some parents raise successful children. Others have told me they are endlessly frustrated with their child’s “bad behaviour” or “poor school performance”.

Many of these struggling parents turn to psychologists and social workers for help. But experience and research is showing that helping is not as simple as applying Western interventions based on Western research. And it’s not quite clear where we should start to develop something culturally and contextually appropriate.

My research sets out to establish the “rules” of being a good parent in the very unique context of Alexandra. Ultimately, my work will outline what parental behaviours and practices in Alex are positive and lead to good outcomes. It will also examine which behaviours are not helpful, and where these are coming from.

Nicola Dawson is busy completing her PhD at the University of Witwatersrand. She works for The Ububele Educational and Psychotherapy Trust. The Ububele Educational and Psychotherapy Trust receives funding from various organisations, including The World Childhood Foundation and Terre des Hommes. She is affiliated with the NIAS Lorentz Center: Children Seen and Heard Across the Globe network.

McEvoy hopes mother knows best at Rio

Mother knows best.


And it seems Australia’s Cameron McEvoy is counting on it after emerging as the Rio Olympic 100m freestyle gold medal favourite.

McEvoy clocked the third fastest 100m time ever to claim gold at the Rio trials in Adelaide on Monday night.

It was just 0.13 of a second outside Brazil’s Cesar Cielo’s world record set in a now banned supersuit in 2009.

McEvoy’s effort was the fastest ever in a textile suit, eclipsing compatriot and dual world champion James Magnussen’s 47.10 at the 2012 trials.

Even faster than Eamon Sullivan’s 2008 previous national record (47.05) also in a supersuit.

It’s enough to do anyone’s head in.

Enter McEvoy’s mum.

McEvoy, 21, said he would rely on his psychologist mother to ensure he was in the right mindset ahead of a final assault on a Rio gold medal that now appears his to lose.

“I’ve stepped up the mental preparation leading into this competition,” McEvoy said.

“That’s being more involved with my mum and being more vocal about how I am feeling mentally.

“And that will continue into Rio no doubt.”

McEvoy knows Olympic 100m gold medal favourites can’t take anything for granted.

Magnussen looked primed to become the first Australian male since Michael Wenden at Mexico 1968 to win Olympic 100m gold at London.

He was pipped by 0.01 of a second for gold by American Nathan Adrian.

And Sullivan set a new world record in the Beijing Olympic 100m semi-finals, only to be relegated to silver.

“There is a history of world No.1s not coming out with the gold and the Olympics is notorious for not always producing the best time to win it,” McEvoy said.

“The mental game you play before stepping up to the blocks is beyond anything.

“I’m very much aware of that.”

McEvoy’s mother has already helped him overcome major mental hurdles.

At just 17, McEvoy was publicly shamed as a member of the 4x100m freestyle relay team which admitted to abusing sleeping pills at the ill-fated London Olympics.

McEvoy admitted his mother proved the difference after experiencing anxiety at the following 2013 world titles trials.

“I spoke to mum and she helped bring me back to reality – that helped me a lot,” McEvoy said of his 2013 campaign.

McEvoy has not looked back since.

But he will be looking over his shoulder at Rio.

“I am aware rivals will be fired up and getting ready to get back into training at 5am just to beat me,” he said of his world beating time.

“I can’t sit back and relax. I have got a lot to do.”


Cesar Cielo (Bra) 46.91 2009*

Alain Bernard (Fra) 46.94 2009*

Cameron McEvoy (Aus) 47.04 2016

Eamon Sullivan (Aus) 47.05 2008*

James Magnussen (Aus) 47.10 2012

Fred Bousquet (Fra) 47.15 2009*


Cameron McEvoy 47.04 2016

Eamon Sullivan 47.05 2008*

James Magnussen 47.10 2012

James Roberts 47.63 2012

Matt Targett 47.88 2008*

Kyle Chalmers 48.03 2016

*denotes in now-banned supersuit

Can Spieth rebound from agony of Masters meltdown?

Renowned for his mental toughness under pressure and already the winner of two major titles at the tender age of 22, Spieth was seemingly poised for a second successive Green Jacket after storming five strokes clear with nine holes to play.


That Spieth then went bogey, bogey, quadruple-bogey through 10, 11 and 12 to drop three shots off the pace was one of the most astonishing scenes ever played out at a major championship, and begs the question of how he will handle such a meltdown.

“If you would have told anybody in the golfing world that Jordan Spieth, with the lead, would make seven birdies on Sunday at Augusta and loses, they would have said you’re crazy,” said former world number one David Duval.

“This is going to add some scar tissue for Jordan Spieth. He got to the 10th tee and the wheels just came off. This is either one of the things that is going to make him tougher or it is going to be a hard thing to get over.

“This one got away from him and he is going to go back to the drawing board,” Duval said in his role as an analyst on Golf Channel. “He will sit down this week and say, ‘What happened and how do we not let that ever happen again?'”

Three-times Masters champion Nick Faldo, who clinched his third Green Jacket in 1996 after a dramatic last-day collapse by Greg Norman, agreed.

“This will scar him,” said the English former world number one, who was also renowned for his steely on-course focus while racking up six major titles during his Hall of Fame career.

“This will damage him for a while. We’re all in shock with what happened to Jordan. In ’96 you got the sense that Greg was struggling, but it was bit by bit.


While Norman’s 1996 debacle was a slow burn after he started the final round with a six-shot lead and agonisingly watched it evaporate as he carded a 78 to Faldo’s superb 67, Spieth’s shocking collapse was brutal in its speed.

“What happened to Jordan, it was so sudden, just bam,” said Faldo. “It was 10 minutes of golf. That’s the harshness of it.”

Jack Nicklaus, who won a record six Masters titles, expressed the views of many with a sympathetic but encouraging statement on his website, saying: “I think the whole golfing world feels for Jordan Spieth.

“He had a chance to do something truly special and something very few have done before – and be the youngest to accomplish that – and he just didn’t pull through.

“My heart goes out to him for what happened, but I know that Jordan is a young man who will certainly learn from this experience and there will be some good that comes out of this for him.”

Many insiders firmly believe that Spieth, who is wise beyond his years as a golfer, will be able to overcome the mental and emotional scarring of Sunday’s meltdown.

The young American knew all week that his game from tee to green was not at its best, and it was his brilliant putting above all that helped him lead after each of the first three rounds before failing to close the deal.

“I’m very confident in the way that we play the game of golf, said Spieth, who consistently brackets himself with his caddie, Michael Greller, to emphasise the team approach. “When we’re on, I believe that we’re the best in the world.

“I believe we were the best in the world getting by, for the most part this week, with what felt uncomfortable over the ball with my iron play.

“I hit some really good irons, but for the most part it was my ability to map out the course, my putting and my short game that pretty much had us in the lead. Big picture, this one will hurt. It will take a while.”

Spieth had been bidding to become just the fourth player to clinch back-to-back Green Jackets and the second youngest player in the modern era to win three major titles with only Gene Sarazen ahead of him. He should be just fine, in time.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

Canada Aboriginal community declares suicide crisis emergency

A Canadian aboriginal community of 2,000 people declared a state of emergency on Saturday after 11 of its members tried taking their own lives this month and 28 tried to do so in March, according to a document provided by a local politician.


The declaration was signed by Chief Bruce Shisheesh of the remote northern community of the Attawapiskat First Nation in Ontario. It was provided to Reuters Sunday night by the member of parliament for the area, Charlie Angus, who said in an interview, “This is a systemic crisis affecting the communities.”

“There’s just not been a serious response from any level of government until now,” he said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed sorrow at the news over in a tweet on April 11 and vowed to better the conditions of Indigenous communities in Canada.

The news from Attawapiskat is heartbreaking. We’ll continue to work to improve living conditions for all Indigenous peoples.

— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) April 10, 2016Disadvantage

Canada’s 1.4 million aboriginals, who make up about 4 percent of the country’s population, have higher levels of poverty and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians and are more often victims of violent crime, addiction and incarceration.

The Canadian Press reported the regional First Nations government was sending a crisis response unit to the community following the declaration on Saturday. The Health Canada federal agency said in a statement it sent two mental health counsellors as part of that unit.

Shisheesh and the First Nation’s band office could not be immediately reached for comment.

Another Canadian aboriginal community in the western province of Manitoba appealed for federal aid last month, citing six suicides in two months and 140 suicide attempts in two weeks.

The problems plaguing remote indigenous communities gained prominence in January when a gunman killed four people in La Loche, Saskatchewan.

Poem a ‘crime against humanity’: Turkey

The Turkish government has demanded that a German comedian who wrote a poem insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan be punished, calling the verses a “crime against humanity”.


Jan Boehmermann fuelled a diplomatic spat between Germany and Turkey late last month when he read out a poem on television lampooning the Turkish head of state as “a professional idiot, cowardly and uptight” and accusing him of performing sex acts with animals.

The poem was not just insulting Erdogan, but all 78 million Turks, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said in the south-eastern Turkish city of Sanliurfa on Monday.

“This is why we as the Republic of Turkey want this insolent man to be punished immediately under German law for insulting a president,” he said.

He accused Boehmermann of having committed a “serious crime against humanity” with his poem.

The verses had “crossed all lines of shamelessness,” he said.

However, Kurtulmus insisted that Turkey did “absolutely not want to put political pressure” on Germany.

His comments came as German government officials met to decide how to respond to a request from Turkey to prosecute the comedian.

Public prosecutors in Mainz have already launched a preliminary investigation into Boehmermann and public broadcaster ZDF to determine whether the poem violates a law that criminalises insults against representatives of foreign states.

A controversial deal the European Union struck with Ankara to return migrants from Greece to Turkey has given Erdogan political leverage in his dealings with the bloc.

Rights groups insist the country’s campaign against the Kurdish minority in the southeast and its crackdown on the Turkish press should not be ignored as the EU struggles to get on top of the migration crisis.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday that official consultations on Turkey’s request would last several days, adding that freedom of speech and artistic expression was a non-negotiable right both domestically and in relation to other countries.

Genetic ‘superheroes’ study may save lives

Studying the genetic codes of 13 individuals who seem to be miraculously resistant to severe inherited diseases could open the door to life-saving new treatments, scientists believe.


The 13, who have remained healthy despite carrying genetic mutations linked to childhood diseases, were identified by researchers who scoured the DNA of more than half a million people worldwide.

All of them should have been susceptible to Mendelian disorders which can begin in early childhood and are generally caused by defects in just one gene.

Under normal circumstances, anyone carrying such “completely penetrant” mutations will inevitably become ill. An example of a Mendelian disorder is cystic fibrosis.

Yet the 13 people who have been the focus of the new study are apparently totally unaffected by their faulty genes.

They were discovered by scientists involved in the Resilience Project, a retrospective study of more than 589,000 genomes, or complete genetic codes.

The aim was to find rare individuals who are immune to genetic variants that should trigger disease.

Analysis of their genomes could uncover naturally occurring, protective mechanisms that might help scientists develop new treatments for severe inherited disorders.

Each of the 13 individuals appeared to be completely resistant to one of eight Mendelian childhood conditions.

Resilience Project co-founder Professor Eric Schadt, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City, said: “Most genomic studies focus on finding the cause of a disease, but we see tremendous opportunity in figuring out what keeps people healthy.

“Millions of years of evolution have produced far more protective mechanisms than we currently understand.

Writing in the journal Nature Biotechnology, the scientists explained how progress had been hampered by the fact that the 13 owners of the resistant genomes could not be contacted. The researchers had access to their DNA, but not the individuals themselves.

Commenting on the paper, Dr Daniel MacArthur, from Massachusetts General Hospital in the US, wrote: “The researchers could not re-contact the majority of resilient individuals for further study because of a lack of necessary consent forms.

“Finding genetic superheroes will require other kinds of heroism – a willingness of participants to donate their genomic and clinical data and a commitment by researchers and regulators to overcome the daunting obstacles to data sharing on a global scale.”

Workers hoping for death of Qld Nickel

Sacked workers hope they are about to hear the death knell for Clive Palmer’s Queensland Nickel, as the federal MP fights claims he was secretly pulling the strings at his embattled company.


Queensland Nickel has debts of about $100 million and creditors will learn on Tuesday if administrators want it wound up.

The Australian Workers Union (AWU) believes liquidation is likely and would be welcomed by workers because they would then be able to access a federal scheme covering some of their entitlements.

One Townsville family that’s barely surviving is praying FTI Consulting recommends liquidation.

“We’ve all got debt collectors chasing us. Fingers crossed that’s what happens,” the wife of one sacked worker, who did not want to be named, told AAP on Monday.

“There’s so much debt. Things are going unpaid. Next step bankruptcy and having to start all over again.”

The woman, her husband and their children lost their house when the job went, and have been forced to move in with elderly in-laws.

“There’s 10 of us in one house at the moment until hubby finds work. We’ve got four children plus my son’s girlfriend and their baby because we were providing for them too,” she said.

“If we can get this federal money it might just get us up to scratch with bills, and then we can wait for a job to come. My husband is constantly sending out resumes and he’s enrolled in a course.”

AWU Queensland branch secretary Ben Swan says 787 workers and their families who relied on Mr Palmer’s Townsville nickel refinery have endured a long period of financial pain.

He says they won’t get close to the $74 million they are owed but given how close the wolf is to the door for many, he thinks they will be relieved if they can secure access to federal government help.

“It’ll be something, which is better than nothing,” Mr Swan told AAP.

The fate of Queensland Nickel will ultimately be decided on April 22, when creditors will meet in Townsville to vote on FTI’s recommendations.

As Mr Palmer awaits those recommendations, he’s been forced to defend himself against fresh claims he had the final say on multi-million dollar spending decisions at the company well after he stepped down as a director on his election to parliament in 2013.

Most of the decisions were outlined in emails from Mr Palmer’s email alias, Terry Smith, the ABC’s Four Corners program has reported.

Mr Palmer is already facing a probe by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and Queensland Nickel’s administrators into whether he acted as a shadow director before his company ran into trouble.

He has accused Four Corners of being uninterested in the truth on a story that will damage him, and has written to the ABC’s managing director Mark Scott, claiming the story contains factual errors.

In an interview on ABC Lateline, Mr Palmer said he was “absolutely not” a shadow director and pulling the strings of the company.

He said he was one of six people in a joint venture committee, set up in an agreement drawn up when the Queensland government was a shareholder in the business, making decisions.

He rejected questions about whether he personally had been required to approve purchase orders more than $500 in the last three or four years, saying that approval had to come from the committee.

Mr Palmer laughed when asked about using the alias Terry Smith when sending emails to Queensland Nickel staff, saying he used the email to make restaurant bookings and that the emails were signed “Clive”.

“If I wanted to make an appointment at the Wild Duck restaurant and Terry Smith made the appointment, you media wouldn’t be there bothering me,” he said.

“If there was a reservation under my name, there would be 20 or 30 media at the restaurant.”

Mr Palmer was also quizzed about an email sent with the Terry Smith alias where he argued against advice to bring forward an oil pipeline safety inspector.

“That’s my nephew Martin cautioning me,” he said.

“I rejected his advice. That was my prerogative to do so as a member of the committee, as other people could have had contrary views if they wanted to.”

Hunt on for ‘coward’ killer of Melbourne toddler

The grieving uncle of a toddler found dead in a Melbourne creek has warned his neighbours to beware the shameful coward who abducted and killed his niece.


The body of 15-month-old Sanaya Sahib was found in Darebin Creek just early on Sunday, less than a day after Sofina Nikat says her daughter was snatched from her pram at a nearby park.

Police on Monday would not say whether security cameras in parkland barely 100 metres from where the girl’s body was found were operating.

Officers said their investigation was continuing and they were out in force in the area and parks to reassure the community.

Sanaya and her mother had been staying with Ms Nikat’s brother, Habib Ali, who warned neighbours on Monday from walking in the park alone with their children.

“Whoever done it, shame on him. He’s a coward and he shouldn’t have done what he has done,” Mr Ali told reporters on Monday.

“Don’t go to the parks alone at night or in the morning or anything. Just keep very, very careful.”

Mr Ali said his sister was hysterical and in the hands of social workers.

“She’s really … shocked and crying a lot,” he said.

“She doesn’t know what to do or what’s going on, obviously.”

He said the family still did not know what had happened to Sanaya or how she died.

Ms Nikat, 22, told police her daughter was grabbed by a shoeless man of African appearance who smelled of alcohol about 10am on Saturday.

She said she was pushed to the ground by the man who ran off with her daughter towards a nearby shopping centre.

She had given chase in vain before returning to the Heidelberg West house of Mr Ali about a kilometre away, from where she raised the alarm.

Mr Ali said he had a lot of sympathy for Sanaya’s shocked father.

He said his sister was separated from her husband but did not want to give personal details, saying the family wanted to be left in peace.

Mr Ali says both sides of Sanaya’s family in Fiji were praying for the “little angel”.

“She didn’t deserve it … such a cute little kid,” he said.

Floral bouquets and stuffed toys waiting to be cuddled scatter the banks of the creek in tribute to the little “sweetheart”.

“So very sorry for your family, our heart breaks with them,” one note reads.

Another message further along the narrow creek wishes for the “little angel” to fly high.

With her eight-month-old girl in her arms, an emotional mother left flowers at the house of Sanaya’s uncle.

“I can relate to going to a park without a phone – just wanting to be at the park with your baby,” Vicky Gogas told reporters on Monday.

“I don’t know why I’m so emotional … As a mother (myself), the feeling of losing a new baby is so raw.”

Bryan Adams axes Mississippi gig over ‘aggressive’ anti-LGBTI law

Canadian singer Bryan Adams has canceled a show in Mississippi to protest a new state law that will let people with religious objections deny services to same-sex couples, the second major concert scrapped in the U.


S. South over discrimination concerns.

On Friday, rock star Bruce Springsteen called off a weekend concert in North Carolina to show his opposition to a new law there barring transgender people from choosing bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

The cancellations come as U.S. states consider legislation seen as restricting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. Supporters of the measures say they are needed to keep women and children safe in restrooms and to protect religious freedom after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year legalized same-sex marriage.

Adams, who was set to perform on Thursday at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, called the state’s measure “extremely discriminatory.”

“I cannot in good conscience perform in a state where certain people are being denied their civil rights due to their sexual orientation,” Adams wrote on his website.

The law signed in Mississippi last week allows people with religious objections to deny wedding services to same-sex couples and permits employers to cite religion in determining workplace policies on dress code, grooming and bathroom and locker access.

Ninety-five Mississippi writers, including best-selling author John Grisham, signed a letter released on Monday calling for a repeal of the law before it takes effect in July.

“There have always been people here battling injustice,” the letter said. “That’s the version of Mississippi we believe in, and that’s the Mississippi we won’t stop fighting for.”

In North Carolina, several hundred people rallied in Raleigh on Monday in support of that state’s law, the first in the nation to require transgender people to choose bathrooms and locker rooms that match the gender on their birth certificate.

The law also bars local governments from enacting anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The supporters wore pins that read “No men in women’s bathrooms” and thanked Republican Governor Pat McCrory for standing firm against attacks on the measure, WTVD-TV reported.

Executives from dozens of U.S. corporations have urged both North Carolina and Mississippi officials to repeal their laws.

A state legislator who was one of 11 Democrats to vote for North Carolina’s measure called for its repeal on Monday.

“I made the wrong vote, and we must now make it right,” Representative Billy Richardson said in an opinion article for the Fayetteville Observer.

Gallen told Bird to calm it

So hell-bent was Greg Bird on causing destruction on Sunday that NSW captain Paul Gallen felt compelled to warn him about harming his State of Origin chances.


Bird missed last year’s entire Origin series after copping an eight-week ban for a dangerous throw charge stemming from the Anzac Test.

It was his fourth charge for the same offence in the space of a year.

Fearing a repeat stint on the sidelines might have been on the cards, after Bird flattened James Maloney in Gold Coast’s narrow loss to Cronulla on the weekend, Gallen had a word on the run to his Origin `Bruise brother’.

“After that Maloney hit I went up and said: `mate, you’ve just got to be careful’,” Gallen told Sky Sports Radio’s Big Sports Breakfast on Tuesday.

“He wasn’t happy with me on the field at the time, but after the game he came up to me and apologised and said `I realised you weren’t being smart’.

“He was on a mission, there’s no doubt about that.

“When he gets in that sort of mood he can create some attention for himself that isn’t really warranted.”

Bird was hit with a grade-two careless high tackle charge for the high shot on Maloney – which carries a one-week ban – while he also sailed close to the wind in tackling Ben Barba in mid-air and getting involved in some push and shove with Michael Ennis.

Gallen admitted that on first inspection, he didn’t think the hit on Maloney was that bad.

Bird made his Origin debut for NSW in 2007, however due to a myriad of injuries and suspensions, he has missed 11 possible matches for his state since that time.

“He is a player you want to play alongside in State of Origin,” Gallen said.

“If he is missing again it would be a big loss.”