Children’s theory of mind (ToM) unfolds reliably through a sequence of conceptual milestones including, but not limited to, false belief. Sequences vary with culture, one observed previously in Western cultures (Australia, the United States) and another in two non-Western cultures, China and Iran. Two explanations for cross-cultural sequence differences have been suggested: (a) collectivism versus individualism or (b) authoritarian versus authoritative parenting. However, neither has been directly tested empirically. Our goal was to do so. Children (n = 122, aged 4-6) in Indonesia (a collectivist culture) took Wellman and Liu’s ToM Scale. Their mothers completed two self-report measures evaluating their attitudes to (a) collectivism/individualism and (b) authoritarian versus authoritative parenting. Indonesian mothers preferred collectivism to individualism and authoritativeness to authoritarianism. Child ToM was negatively correlated with authoritarianism but unrelated to other parental attitudes. ToM Scale sequences differed significantly between Javanese and Sundanese children in Indonesia and by city of residence but not with collectivism/individualism or parenting style. Javanese children (primarily from Jakarta) matched the Western ToM Scale sequence, whereas Sundanese children (primarily from Bogor) matched the Chinese/Iranian sequence. Findings highlight benefits of going beyond broad characterizations to directly examine how culture, ethnicity, and parenting relate to ToM sequences and development.
- developmental: child/adolescent
- family/child rearing
- social cognition
- theory of mind