Early Socialization of the Child: Cultural Aspects of Childcare in Twenty-First-Century Lithuania

  • Audronė Daraškevičienė
Keywords: baby, parents, childcare, early socialization, breastfeeding


Drawing on cultural perspectives of childcare, the aim of this paper is to explorethe childcare culture in twenty-first-century Lithuania. The main objectives are as follows: to discuss childcare models in the society of contemporary Lithuania, to reveal early socialisation goals, to analyze how childcare models can be shaped by the cultural context. My descriptions of the childcare in contemporary Lithuania are based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted from 2013 to 2016. Two main childcare models can be observed in twenty-first-century Lithuania. According to the sociologist Petra Büskens, one of them can be called the romantic childcare model (childcare practices: one-to-three years of unregulated breastfeeding, “in arms” or “baby-wearing” practice, the family bed with emphasis on the child’s needs). Proponents of the rational childcare model have a more critical opinion on breastfeeding and “baby-wearing”, and their babies sleep in a separate bed. Proponents of rational childcare tend to emphasize the parents’ and not the baby’s interests. Proponents of different childcare models pose different goals of child socialisation. The landmarks of child socialisation for the adherents of the romantic childcare model are the child’s psychological security and strong family ties. Proponents of the rational childcare model advocate the child’s adjustment to other people’s interests as the main aim of early socialisation of the child. The material of ethnographic fieldwork in contemporary Lithuania supports the researchers’ view that the character of childcare is associated with a broad cultural context that is expressed through parents’ worldview. In contemporary Lithuania, the proponents of the romantic model associate childcare with social power or acquisition of the socially relevant qualities. For them, “natural” is “what is close to nature”. They reject the more structured childcare practices, equating them with human constraints which for them are a symbolic representation of the Soviet times. Meanwhile, the proponents of the rational childcare model do not tend to impart much meaning of social power to childcare. “Natural” or “normal” practices for them are those which do not create problems for adults. Proponents of rational childcare equate the more structured childcare practices not with the Soviet times, but with the tradition of their grandparents and parents. The study supports the researchers’ assumption that taking care of an infant is associated with a much broader circle of issues than health and feeding. The meanings of childcare practices are influenced by the fundamental cultural contexts such as those which define the concept of the person, the relation of the man and the woman to nature, social priorities, and the socially accepted concept of time.