Defining Cultural Perspective Much of the literature on multiculturalism or cultural perspectives is written in the vein of understanding the other. While this is absolutely vital, it is contended that to best serve young clients who are linguistically or culturally diverse, music therapists must also examine their own cultural perspective. Rogoﬀ (2003) argues that “understanding development from a sociocultural-historical perspective requires examination of the cultural nature of everyday life” (p. 10). She goes on to present five orienting concepts to help understand the cultural nature of human development (Rogoﬀ, 2003, p. 11-12): Culture isn’t just what other people do. Understanding one’s own cultural heritage, as well as other cultural communities, requires taking the perspective of other people of contrasting backgrounds. Cultural practices fit together and are connected. Cultural communities continue to change, as do individuals. There is not likely One Best Way. These orienting concepts underscore the importance of music therapists examining their own perspective and experience rather than just looking at the other. It is important to take time to be reflective practitioners and understand one's own beliefs and biases. What does one believe about disabilities and child development? What does one
imagine 5(1), 2014
believe about the role of music in the lives of our young clients? Beyond personal beliefs, one must also recognize that the field of music therapy is populated by a dominant group that represents a majority perspective in the United States. It is therefore important to both examine the dominant perspective and respect the cultural contexts that informs the client’s development. If this perspective is not examined, then there is a higher risk of viewing norms and expectations as the “right way” or failing to recognize one's part of dynamic and changing belief systems. Development in Context The knowledge about child development is rendered through a cultural lens. In large part, information has been based on research that has been carried out through a predominantly Western perspective with majority populations. Our goal is not to suggest that this is either right or wrong, but to encourage music therapists who work with young children to recognize the lens that informs an understanding about child development and consequently become more sensitive to how this dominant perspective potentially informs therapeutic interaction. An example of the dominant orientation of contemporary developmental theory is the concept of developmental milestones, which provides a framework for understanding and evaluating young children. While it is generally accepted that there is
variation in how children move through developmental milestones, it is important to recognize that the context in which the child grows up can have a significant impact on the rates of passing through the milestones. Rogoﬀ (2003) states that “diﬀerences in communities’ values and expectations underlie varying parental eﬀorts to help children learn skills” (p. 159). Diﬀerent families and environments stress diﬀerent skills and behaviors. In later research, Silva and colleagues demonstrated that family practices impacted attentional processes and learning in Mexican-heritage children living in the United States (Silva, CorreaChavez, & Rogoﬀ, 2010). Attentional processes, which are essential for learning, are just one example of how cultural context can shape development. Gaskins (2000) also advocates for studying children’s learning and development within their sociocultural context. Her work with Mayan children has demonstrated diﬀerences in play and emotional development. Gaskins argues that when a child’s behavior is viewed from a dominant perspective rather than a culture-centered perspective, then the view of the behavior may be skewed. “For many years developmental research on play was conducted mainly with middleclass European or EuropeanAmerican children in laboratory playrooms by researchers from the same cultural backgrounds, but since this work was done with little or no attention to a cultural level of analysis, it did not yield evidence relevant to describing play as a
The focus of imagine 2014 is on family-centered practice – a trend taking hold in music therapy circles worldwide. While many practitioners...