This book is the fourth of a seven-volume series edited by Beatrice B. Whiting on Six Cultures: Studies of Child Rearing Practices. The goals and methodology of the project are carefully described in Volume I of the series, Field Guide for a Study of Socialization, and are outlined in Whiting’s introduction to this volume. Here she states: “The overall research was designed to study the degree to which the experiences of a child in the first years of life determine his behavior and in adult life influence his perception of the world” (p. v). The Romney volume, therefore, may be read as an integral part of a larger study concerned with ecology, culture, and personality or as a separate description of the culture and child-raising practices found in one village of Mixteean Indians. The presentation carefully follows the format used in the other volumes and utilizes nine “behavioral systems” in relationship to the total ecological and cultural environment. This plan facilitates the use of the volume as part of a series but to some degree limits its potential as a study of a particular community.
Part I of the Romney volume presents an ethnographic study of Juxtlahuaca, while Part II is concerned with child training through the period of “late childhood.” Both parts are competently and clearly written and present an excellent insight into both the Mixtecan community and the functioning of individuals within it.
The Mixtecans in question are a subordinate community in a town economically and politically dominated by Spanish-speaking mestizos. Interaction between the two groups is limited, and the Mixtecans have accepted an inferior social position. Mixtecan patterns of behavior tend to emphasize cooperation, equality, and non-aggressiveness. Economic equality is assured by siphoning off individual economic gains into fiesta activities, and the resultant honors rarely distinguish an individual for long, as most adults finance and act as members of a cofradía at some time during their lives. The cultural content of the society parallels that reported in most studies of Indian Mexico. The Mixtecan child is raised to seek fulfillment in traditional non-aggressive Indian patterns rather than in individual advancement. The Romneys conclude that “the severity of effectiveness of training with respect to suppressing overt aggression … is inherently incompatable with the development of strong achievement drives and emphasis on the development of self-reliance” (p. 143).