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Differences in Cultural Attitudes Towards Children

I was having a conversation this morning about how cultural attitudes towards children vary between the US and Turkey.

In the US, a decent percentage of people choose not to have kids and it's not a big deal. People can admit that they "just don't like kids" and most people don't think anything bad about the person because of it.

In Turkey, it seems like everybody is baby obsessed. I heard that the government comes right out and says that every family should have at least 3 kids and that saying you don't like kids will make you seem like a bad person.

The last time that I was in Turkey, I was surprised at how hands-on people were with other people's children. I was with friends of my fiancé (he's from Turkey) who have a toddler son and a baby daughter. Strangers on the street would touch their daughter and even pick her up out of her stroller, and would offer candies or other treats to their son. We were out to dinner one night, and their daughter started fussing. Before she could even start crying, a waiter came by and picked her up, and continued to walk around holding her while we finished our meal. People also don't seem to hesitate in telling other parents how to treat their kids (like insisting that a baby should be dressed more warmly, for example).

In the US, people tend to be very hands-off when it comes to other people's children. Touching someone else's kid or offering them candy could make you seem like a pedophile, and most parents would be pretty angry if a stranger just picked up their kid. People also tend to keep their comments to themselves, as saying something about a stranger's parenting style (unless it's something really serious) would be perceived as rude.

It made me curious as to the differences people have noticed between other cultures and their own. Do people in your culture tend to be more hands-off or hand-on when it comes to strangers' children? Has anything surprised you while visiting another country? I'd love to hear.

April 29, 2015



When I went to India, I noticed that people were definitely more hands-on with kids. While I was on a six hour train ride, there was a little boy who was probably a year old, and he was passed around the train from lap to lap for nearly the whole ride. People would play games with him, and if he started crying, whoever was nearest would try to console him. It's definitely very different from the US where, as you described, people wouldn't dream of interacting with a stranger's child.


That's interesting. I'd probably be wary of allowing that if I had kids, but I think the mentality is a great one. Parenting can be so stressful, especially when traveling, so it's lovely that other people step in to help. Traveling in the US, so many parents with kids seem so stressed and tired. I'm sure many of them would appreciate being given a break!


I've read that this US taboo about interacting with strangers' children arose fairly recently, around the '70s, as a result of "Stranger Danger" type PSA campaigns. It's problematic, though. It did reduce assaults on children by strangers, but by framing the danger as coming from some scary outsider, it had the unintended effect of also reducing reporting of assaults on children by people they know, which sadly is the vastly more common type of assault.

It's funny. I can know all that, and know that however terrible someone might be in their heart, there's almost no chance that they could actually do anything bad to a child in a train car full of other adults who are watching, and this train scenario still makes me (from the US) super uncomfortable. The intellectual part of my brain thinks stronger community involvement is the better system, though.

[deactivated user]

    I grew up in the late 70's/80's in the US, I don't remember any specific campaigns against it, but media attention to isolated incidents certainly made parents more aware. Adam Walsh, whose father later hosted a TV showed about unsolved mysteries, was abducted from a department store in broad daylight. Another child in NY was abducted in public while walking to school. Both cases got a lot of media attention. While people know these things don't happen all the time, no one wants their kid to be the next isolated incident...


    I am currently living in Turkey and saying I hate babies doesn't make me a bad person but everytime I say I don't like babies people be like "omg seriously?!" Because they just can't understand how someone doesn't love the minature version of a human. And yes, they are baby obsessed hahaha I was at a hospital yesterday and there was a young woman with her 1.5 year old baby and everyone swarmed around them, "oh how cute he is!", "he has his mother's eyes".... Also if your child trips and falls, everyone will try to help him/her. Normally I try to stay away from kids of strangers because I think they will get annoyed my behaviours even though my intention is good but apperantely Turks are not like this. Age does not matter, if you are someone's child, you will always be their baby. I am staying with a lovely lady, she has a 31 year old son and everyday she calls him to ask if he is doing fine, if he needs anything etc. She even reminds him to wear a sweater because it's cold outside lol He comes to visit his mother every 3 days. I adore them, to be honest.

    Sorry for my bad English :)


    Thanks for sharing your observations. That's so sweet about the woman and her grown son. Do you mind my asking where in Turkey you're living?

    And don't worry, your English is good!


    I live in Istanbul :) Thanks!


    Oh that's where my fiancé is from! Istanbul is such a gorgeous city.


    I wish America was more like Turkey in this aspect! It is hard finding reasons NOT to move to Turkey though, this place sounds like heaven on earth.


    I agree! I noticed that in Turkey you hardly ever see kids crying or throwing temper tantrums in public because as soon as they start showing signs of being upset, someone steps in to help. Turks definitely seem to follow the "it takes a village" mentality.

    There a lot of things I love about Turkey, and wouldn't mind living there (if I succeed in learning the language haha), but unfortunately the political climate is not the best and they are still behind many nations when it comes to women's rights.


    True, true, and true! They're on the right path to women's rights at least, they'll get there someday. I might actually want to have children one day if the community was so involved and helpful like they're in Turkey! :)


    Yes, that's true. Especially in the larger cities, women's rights are starting to match those of other western countries, but some of the rural areas still have a lot of work to do. I'm sure they'll get there someday, though. And in a few respects, women are actually better of in Turkey than the US. For example, women in Turkey get 16 weeks paid maternity leave while the US still doesn't have any national paid maternity leave (which I think is crazy).

    And same here haha. If my fiancé and I decide to have kids, maybe we should move to Istanbul, at least while the kids are little :P (His parents are already lobbying for that lol)


    Yes! The US is one of the only developed countries without a paid maternity leave! It really frustrates me.

    Of course they are! That is what any good grandparents would want, they need to spoil their grandbabies. ;)


    Yeah one recent study estimated that only about 15-32% people are eligible for paid leave in the US, which is the lowest of any developed country.

    And who knows where we'll end up living because my parents live in Spain, so of course they're heavily lobbying for us to move there. But we also have immediate family in the UK, Argentina, France, and Germany, so no matter what we'll most likely be spending a lot of money on airfare haha. It's also why I'll be marrying my fiancé twice (once in Turkey and once in Spain, plus another reception in the US :) ).

    Oh god, I'm turning into one of those annoying engaged people :P Sorry haha

    [deactivated user]

      I was in Turkey last summer and what I observed was that the children were more coddled than what we do in the US. I saw an 8 year old getting spoon fed (not an entire meal, but just the last few bites). I'm sure it's not universal and I don't think it was always a bad thing, as most Turks I know as adults are just fine! There is just a lot of focus on children, even down to the announcements at airports, which were not just addressed to "Ladies and gentlemen" but to "Ladies, gentleman and children."


      Yes, there is definitely s heavy focus on children. I love how they address "ladies, gentlemen, and children". That's so sweet and I imagine it would make kids feel like they're important too.


      That's really sweet including them in the announcements that way!


      Haha,that's true :) Turkish people often have many children


      Very interesting insight about Turkish culture. I had no idea. Your observations about US culture are the same for Canada, and is bang on. If a complete stranger touches my kids or offers them candy, I'd go into Mother Bear mode.


      And same in France ... that would make a good sociological study ^^


      In Russia I found things very much the same - they were a curious mix of overprotective (dressing them in woollen tights in June) and hands-off (letting the kids wander Moscow alone). And they would definitely make comments like you described. However, there is quite an emphasis on family privacy.


      Interesting cultural post. I hadn't thought about this before. I like kids but have panic attacks around them so I avoid them.


      hahah that seems funny how they treat kids in Turkey xD In my country I couldn't imagine any kind of interaction between strangers.

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