The Sudanese Sufis’ Views of Normal and Abnormal Development of Children An Exploration of Cultural Perception

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It was generally believed that the exploration of the belief systems  of a society or a culture is important to a better understanding of human development and psychopathology. Judgements about children’s behaviour will be mediated by adults’ views of what constitutes normal and abnormal development (Stratton, 1990).

These views are mostly influenced by cultural perceptions. In turn, these conceptions are likely to be bounded by world views held in different cultures, their goals and ideals. This means certain behaviours which are acceptable in one culture will be unacceptable in others. Behaviours that are deemed not to be a serious problem in one culture may be seen as positively harmful to the child in another. Adult’s perceptions in different cultures might also differ in the factors that they deemed to be responsible for the development of problems. While in themselves these perceptions and their origins are of academic interest, an understanding of them is also required before parent’s judgements about behaviour can be properly  interpreted. In this regard, investigators and developmental theorists (e.g., Stratton, 1990; Wertsch & Youniss, 1988) have examined some of the ways in which socio-historical contexts influence the formulation of issues in developmental psychology. They felt that it is important to examine the social, political, religious, and historical forces of culture when trying to understand the discipline. For instance, parental beliefs may be organized in terms of smaller subsystems that are interrelated within a larger, more global system (Badri, 1997; Mc Gillicuddy, Sigel, & Johnson, 1979; Wertsch & Youniss, 1987)). In addition, the uniqueness of cultural orientataion and practices of a certain society or  community might have shaped norms of behaviour, concepts of development, and ideas of abnormality in a way that characterize that particular society. In line with this approach, the cultural theory of personality and psychopathology suggests that since the cultural world precedes the birth of the individual, culture will pattern the individual’s development and his psychological make-up (Lewis-Fernandez & Keinman, 1994).

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