TITLE Culturally Sensitive Interventions Social Skills Training with by dnk18345



  TITLE: Culturally Sensitive Interventions: Social Skills Training with Children and
         Parents From Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds
SOURCE: Intervention in School and Clinic v33 p75-80 N ’97
The magazine publisher is the copyright holder of this article and it is reproduced with
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The rapid demographic changes in the United States pose a challenge to educators
and practitioners in providing services that are sensitive to the needs of children from
culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Social competence is paramount to
function successfully in school and community environments. Misinterpretation of
culturally linked behavior places these children in conflict with expectations for social
behaviors between home and school. This article provides an overview of cultural
influences on social behaviors of children from diverse backgrounds and suggests
practical applications for developing and implementing social skills training programs for
these children and their parents.
    The rapidly increasing diversity of the U.S. population has spawned a growing
interest in the social competence of culturally diverse children in educational settings.
The number of young culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) children entering
educational settings is increasing rapidly, but the number of practitioners with expertise
and background in working with CLD children is low (Ochoa, Rivera, & Ford, in press).
Separate national surveys of school psychology and early childhood special education
practitioners (Ford, Rivera, & Ochoa, 1996; Ochoa et al., in press) revealed that
respondents considered their training with respect to serving culturally and linguistically
diverse children as less than adequate. In light of these findings, it is critical for
practitioners, including educators and social workers, to become aware of cultural
considerations to develop educational programs that are sensitive to the needs of
these populations, in particular with regard to social skills. This article provides an
overview of important cultural variables to be considered when developing and
implementing social skills training programs for culturally diverse children and parents.
Practical applications are also suggested.
   Social skills have been defined as specific abilities that enable the individual to
perform competently at particular social tasks (McFall, 1982). In turn, the acquisition of
skills for successful social relationships represents an important developmental
accomplishment that is indicative of lifelong social competence (Elliot, Racine, & Bruce,
1995; Greshman, 1995). Deficiencies in social competence, by contrast, may place a
child at risk for poor academic performance, social maladjustment, peer rejection, and
psychopathology. With no intervention, deficiencies in social skills may be predictive of
poor social interactions in adolescence and adulthood. Thus, identification and
treatment of children who are experiencing delays or deficiencies in social—emotional
development warrant the attention of educators and practitioners (Elliot et al., 1995).
   Social skills training for children who have been identified as demonstrating behavior
problems and having difficulty with peer interactions has been shown to have a positive
effect on these children’s prosocial behaviors (Greshman & Nagle, 1980). Further,
improvement in social skills appears to result in improved academic achievement and
vice versa (Cartledge & Milburn, 1995). For these reasons, social skills instruction is
increasingly being recommended for children with disabilities and included in
Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

    When determining the social behaviors to be targeted for instruction, several factors
must be taken into consideration: the child’s developmental level, which may facilitate
or retard learning and retaining skills; the cultural and situational context; the views of
those who make up the child’s environment; and the likelihood that social skills will be
valued and reinforced by others once they are learned (Cartledge & Milburn, 1995).
The sociocultural context in which children exist strongly influences each individual’s
attitudes, beliefs, values, and behaviors (Rivera, 1995). An understanding of social
behaviors within the child’s cultural context will enable educators and other practitioners
to work more effectively with children from diverse backgrounds and to distinguish
between social skills differences and deficiencies.
   This section presents culturally influenced behaviors among the four largest minority
groups in the United States: Hispanic American, African American, Native American,
and Asian American. It is the intention of the authors to refrain from applying limited
and constrictive ideas and from perpetuating stereotypes of minority social behaviors.
However, several distinct social behaviors have been identified within these cultural
groups. A presentation of these behaviors is deemed necessary to provide the reader
with concrete examples that facilitate culturally sensitive practices (see Table 1).
   According to Leung (1990), children from diverse backgrounds are often described
as overcompliant, timid, indecisive, and lacking leadership. As a result, many people
consider these children socially incompetent in a broader social context (Cartledge &
Milburn, 1995), while overlooking the fact that some of these behaviors are expected
and rewarded in the children’s cultural environment.
   Children from Hispanic American backgrounds, for instance, learn to give
unquestioned obedience and respect to parents and authority figures (Rivera, 1995).
These children are raised to display a set of behaviors described by Harwood, Miller,
and Irizarry (1995) as “proper demeanor.” Proper demeanor entails interpersonal skills
expected of a “well-socialized” adult and defines who you are as a person and how
others will respond to you. A child who demonstrates proper demeanor is a child who
is educado (well taught, well brought up), tranquilo (calm), obediente (obedient), and
respetuoso (respectful). Proper demeanor is essential to be accepted by the
community, and the lack of such behavior reflects poorly not only on the individual but
also on the family as a whole. Thus, Hispanic American childrearing practices focus on
raising well-mannered, passive children. Consequently, Hispanic American children
seem to have fewer problems than other children dealing with conflict due in part to
the passive style emphasized in their home environments. Passivity, however,
interferes with the assertiveness needed to function in the mainstream classroom,
make friends, and avoid victimization.
   A passive style as well as deference and respect for authority are also traits that
have been ascribed to Native Americans and Asian Americans (Cartledge & Milburn,
1995). Conversely, African-American children are often raised to be assertive and
persistent in their problem-solving style (Holliday, 1989), and, therefore, frequently end
up being described as aggressive by mainstream teachers. Additionally,
African-American children are encouraged to be tough and not to trust authority figures
unquestioningly (Cartledge & Milburn, 1995)—behaviors that may be often
misinterpreted as defiance and lack of respect.
   Other cultural variables influence the social behaviors demonstrated by culturally
diverse children. For example, an emphasis on cooperation as opposed to competition
has been attributed to most minority groups (Hamayan & Damico, 1990). In contrast,
mainstream classrooms in the United States generally encourage competition. As a

result, students raised in cooperative societies (e.g., Native American, Hispanic
American, Asian American) may experience difficulties adjusting to the mainstream
classroom environment. Competition is viewed as self-serving and negative; therefore,
to be viewed as competitive rather than cooperative would bring shame rather than
pride to the home environment (Lynch & Hanson, 1992). These children may function
more efficiently in cooperative than in competitive settings. Moreover, the strong sense
of collectivism emphasized by many minority groups may create difficulty for children
when attempting to establish individual goals, which continue to be emphasized in the
mainstream educational curriculum.
    The concept of time varies across cultures, and different cultural groups hold
different views about the use of time. For example, the Anglo American culture places
great emphasis on being on time and using time efficiently. Children from diverse
backgrounds may be at a disadvantage in settings where time is strongly emphasized.
Along the same lines, present versus futuristic orientation causes conflict for most
diverse groups. School often stresses the need to master current goals for the purpose
of future rewards in terms of entering higher education or the job market. However,
children from diverse cultural groups may become confused about the purpose of
establishing goals when home stresses mastery of each day as it comes rather than
a projective reality.
    Nonverbal communication is another culturally influenced behavior that deserves
attention. Proximity and touching vary across cultures both in type and their range.
Anglo Americans tend to maintain distance between themselves and others during
conversation unless they are familiar with the others. Hispanic Americans, African
Americans, and Native Americans are comfortable with closer conversational proximity,
whereas Asian Americans prefer more space between the speaker and the listener
(Lynch & Hanson, 1992). The amount and type of physical contact permissible is highly
influenced by culture. For children from Hispanic American groups, for example, lack
of contact between the child and the mainstream adults and peers may be interpreted
as rejection. Among many Asian American groups, in contrast, hugging, back slapping,
and hand-shaking are not typical and should, therefore, be avoided.
    In the Anglo American culture, eye contact is valued in interpersonal relationships
(Lynch & Hanson, 1992), where it is seen as a sign of trustworthiness, sincerity, and
directness. Among other cultural groups, however, eye contact is interpreted differently.
For example, withholding eye contact when interacting with authority figures, particularly
when reprimanded, is strongly emphasized in Hispanic American groups (Harry, 1994).
For African Americans, making eye contact with someone in authority is often viewed
as disrespectful. Likewise, among Asian Americans, eye contact with strangers may be
considered disrespectful. Facial expressions also vary across cultural groups. For
example, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans often do not communicate emotion
to the observer through facial expressions (Lynch & Hanson, 1992).
    With regard to verbal communication, children from Hispanic American and Asian
American groups engage in limited verbal expression toward authority figures, which
may place the diverse child at a disadvantage in settings that place great emphasis on
verbal expression. Conversely, African Americans’ language patterns often allow
simultaneous talk with a high level of facial and gestural communication (Seymour,
Champion, & Jackson, 1995). This pattern can also be seen as problematic as
speaker—listener interactions may appear to be violated from the mainstream culture
perspective, where turn-taking in communication is expected and valued.
    Finally, the concept of fate versus individual responsibility appears to influence
social behaviors. Different groups ascribe different beliefs to the individual’s control
over the environment. Within some Hispanic American cultures, for example, control is

seen as lying outside the individual, and outside factors are seen as being largely
responsible for what happens to people. Children from these groups may not be easily
motivated because they may believe they cannot control and influence their own
performance (Hamayan & Damico, 1990).
    The culture in which we grow up has an impact on the social behaviors we exhibit
across settings. Children from culturally diverse backgrounds may exhibit culturally
based behaviors that might be misinterpreted by mainstream peers and adults, who, in
turn, may view them as functioning unsuccessfully in the mainstream school
environment (Cartledge & Milburn, 1995). For the social skills trainer, an understanding
of culturally influenced behaviors is essential to distinguish between social skills
differences and deficiencies. Therefore, an awareness of social behaviors displayed by
various cultural groups facilitates the planning and implementation of social skills
programs (see Table 2).
    When assessing social behaviors for instruction, the social skills trainer must
consider the following:
    * Cultural influences on the child’s behaviors to be able to determine if a given
behavior is in fact a difference rather than a deficit.
    * Traditional cultural values and beliefs systems and integrate them into social skills
training programs for culturally diverse children (Cartledge & Milburn, 1995). For
example, children from cultural groups that stress collectivism function better when
social learning fosters cooperation and positive peer interactions within a group context.
    * Social skills instruction that promotes an understanding of cultural differences and
positive interactions across peer groups. If children are able to label a behavior as a
function of culture rather than as being “wrong” or “different,” then overall social
interactions can increase in both quality and form. Group instruction should emphasize
cooperation rather than mastery of only individualistic goals.
    * Alternate techniques when utilizing role plays. Multiple solutions should be
demonstrated to allow processing of response styles based on cultural perspective.
Also, role playing or enactment should facilitate an understanding of situations that are
relevant to the culture of the child while also facilitating successful functioning in the
mainstream culture.
    It is important to assist children from culturally diverse backgrounds in maintaining
the identity of their home culture while simultaneously helping them to function
effectively in the mainstream environment.
    Familiarity with parents’ views of their children’s social behaviors and their children’s
social difficulties is necessary to understand the context from which the behavior may
be derived. That is, a child’s apparent social deficiencies in the mainstream
environment may be deemed appropriate at home. Thus, the instruction of social
behaviors considered essential for functioning within successfully mainstream settings
may be a source of conflict for the child in the home setting. Asian American parents,
for instance, may view the child’s social difficulties as indicative of inadequate parental
training or of disobedience in a traditional sense, rather than some intrinsic disorder
(Harry, 1994).
    To avoid misjudgment of culturally diverse children’s social behaviors, approaches
to parent training must
    * Be based on respect for cultural differences and offered in culturally appropriate
ways (Harry, 1994).
    * Work within the context of family values and traditions, using professional
knowledge and skills to build on existing family strengths (Harry, 1994).

   * Consider the various family structures distinctive of culturally diverse groups. For
example, a parent training approach that promotes democratic methods might not be
accepted by cultural groups characterized by an autocratic family structure, in which
the father is the authority figure and head of the household.
   * Consider possible conflicts with the home cultural beliefs and values of some
minority groups. For instance, parent training programs that emphasize empowering the
child to make choices and be ultimately responsible for consequences may not be
considered appropriate by parents from some culturally diverse groups such as
Hispanic American and Asian American.
   * Consider alternative approaches to parent training. For example, parent training
models that are based on a group counseling and support model as opposed to a
teaching model may be more appropriate because they allow families to share
experiences within their own cultural context. In addition, this model supports the
collective orientation of most culturally diverse groups.
   Cultural variables have a significant influence on children’s overt social behaviors.
The Anglo American educational system often mistakenly expects students to adapt to
and adopt mainstream-based behaviors. However, awareness of cultural influences on
social behaviors may enable educators to determine whether the apparent social
deficits are in fact deficiencies rather than differences and, therefore, design more
appropriate interventions. When working with culturally diverse parents, professionals
must also reflect on their own cultural expectations to identify possible incongruences.
Appropriate intervention for children and families must be based on maintaining cultural
behaviors while assisting in the development of skills to function successfully in the
mainstream culture.
   Added material
    Bernadette Delgado Rivera, PhD, is an assistant professor of school psychology at
the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her current areas of research include social skills
training with culturally and linguistically diverse children, assessment practices with
potentially English-proficient children, and academic achievement of culturally diverse
children. Diana Rogers-Adkinson, PhD, is an assistant professor of special education
at Wichita State University. Dr. Rogers-Adkinson’s scholarly work includes studies on
the language ability of children with behavior disorders, cultural implications in social
skills intervention, and cultural interpretation of deviant behavior of children with
emotional/behavioral disorders. Address: Bernadette Delgado Rivera, Department of
Educational Psychology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68588-0345.
    Table 1. Cultural Influences on Social Behaviors
     Social                    Hispanic                          African
    behavior                   American                         American
Behavioral and           restraint of feelings,          high-context, rely on
    emotional                 particularly anger              nonverbals
    expressiveness            and frustration
Verbal                   limited verbal                  affective, emotional,
    expressiveness            expressions toward              interpersonal
                              authority figures
Nonverbal                preference for closer           preference for closer
    expressiveness            personal space                  personal space
                         avoidance of eye                importance placed
                              contact when                    on nonverbal
                              listening or                    behavior

                           speaking to
                           authority figures
Family orientation    deference and                  respect for elderly
                           respect strongly               emphasized, but
                           emphasized                     taught not to
                      patriarchal family                  trust all authority
                           structure                      unquestioningly
                      pronounced extended            kinship and extended
                           family systems                 family bonds
                                                     authoritarian childrearing
Concept of time       present time                   oriented more to
                            perspective                   situation than time
                      relaxed about time,
                      immediate short-term           concrete, tangible,
                            goals                         immediate goals
Social orientation    collective, group              sense of “peoplehood”
                      interdependence                collective
                      cooperative rather
                            than competitive
                      emphasis on
Philosophy            spiritual/magical belief       religious, spiritual
                            orientation                   orientation
Control over          resides outside the            control is external
    environment             individual
     Social                       Asian                        Native
    behavior                     American                     American
Behavioral and       control of emotions and          introverted
    emotional             feelings, self-effacing,
    expressiveness        modest
Verbal               formal                           indirect gaze when
    expressiveness   one-way communication                  listening or
                          from authority figure             speaking
                          to individual
Nonverbal            preference for distance          preference for closer
    expressiveness        between speaker and               personal space
Family orientation   family is primary unit           obedience and respect
                     family solidarity, responsi-           for elders, experts,
                          bility, and harmony               and those with
                     dependence on family is                spiritual powers
                          fostered                          is strongly
                     one-way communication with             emphasized
                          authority figures           emphasis on family
                     strong deference and respect           responsibility
                          emphasized                  supportive nonfamily or
                     loyalty to authority                   other helpers are
                                                            incorporated into
                                                            family network
                                                      development of inde-
        BERNADETTE DELGADO RIVERA AND DIANA ROGERS-ADKINSON:                                 Culturally Sensitive          7

                                                                                       pendence and
Concept of time                   tradition, living with the past                time and place viewed as
                                                                                       permanent, settled
                                  immediate short-term goals                     immediate short-term
Social orientation                mutual interdependence                         group centered
                                  collective responsibility
                                  cooperative rather than                        cooperative rather than
                                       competitive                                     competitive
Philosophy                        spiritualism, detachment                       spiritualism, seeks
Control over                      fatalism                                       harmony with the
    environment                                                                        environment
  Table 2. Social Behavior Expectations for Children From Culturally Diverse
   Behavior               Hispanic                African                    Asian                    Native
  expectation             American               American                   American                 American
Social behavior      displays proper        proud of self              behavior reflects and      self-disciplined,
                         demeanor                                         brings pride to group       generous to others
Problem-solving      avoids conflict,       assertive and persistent   nonconfrontational,        good-natured--avoids
    style                passive                                          reconciliatory              aggression/
Interpersonal        cooperative, sharing   guarded in sharing per-    conforming, cooperative    passive--seeks harmony
     relationships                             sonal information
                                               with others
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