Infant Mental Health and Cultural Competence
Supporting staff members in how best to provide high quality, culturally competent services to children and families is a critically important skill for program leaders.
Infant mental health, or healthy social-emotional development in very young children, develops in the context of family, community, and cultural expectations. Culture—the shared implicit and explicit rules and traditions expressed through the beliefs, values, and goals of a group of people—is the keystone of one’s identity and shapes people’s understanding of the world (Kalyanpur & Harry, 1999). Supporting staff members in how best to provide high-quality, culturally competent services to children and families is a critically important skill for program leaders.
Infant mental health and culture affect each other in complex ways, and are closely linked during a child’s first years of life. One’s culture not only determines how “healthy social-emotional development” is understood by parents and caregivers, but also defines the coping mechanisms, child-rearing beliefs, and expressions of love and nurturing that they may use to promote a child’s mental health.