Socialization of Boys and Girls

Mothers and grandmothers are primarily responsible for early child-rearing. During infancy and early childhood, breast milk or food is not withheld from children of either sex. Depending on the socioeconomic and educational background of the family, girls are often given music and art lessons. Urban Armenian families strive to bring up their daughters to be cultured and courteous young woman who will one day become respected homemakers (dahn deegeen). Regardless of whether or not a woman has a career, and many urban women in Armenia have careers, a woman must also be a good homemaker and be able to keep an immaculate home, cook traditional meals, and bake exquisite pastries. In rural areas, where women do not pursue careers, girls are taught to cook, clean, grow vegetables, and tend to the farm animals; they are not given music and art lessons. In urban areas, boys are encouraged to play sports and chess, and to take music lessons. In rural areas, boys work as shepherds or help their fathers in the fields. Boys in urban and rural areas are discouraged from helping their mothers with household chores because parents believe that this will make them less masculine.

Parents and grandparents purchase most of the toys children play with. Girls are given dolls, teasets, paint sets, and craft sets, while boys are encouraged to play with building sets, cars, trucks, toy swords, and bows and arrows. From the age of 6, boys are allowed to play outside in the communal yards (pag) or public parks with other boys, but from a very young age girls are discouraged from spending too much time playing in the communal yard and often spend most of their time indoors. When girls are allowed to play in the yard and parks, they are supervised and only allowed to play games such as hopscotch or jump rope with other girls.

Children of both sexes are expected to behave and listen to their caretakers, but boys are expected to be more adventurous and to engage in more daring activities. When boys misbehave, parents explain their sons' misconduct by saying, "He is a boy and this is how he learns about life" (dgahe, ayt bes e sovorom gyanki masin). Although the type of disciplinary methods used varies among those families who believe in and practice corporal punishment (generally spanking) to those who prefer to discipline children verbally, girls are generally spared corporal punishment and instead are verbally reprimanded and "shamed" by their parents. Very often a girl who misbehaves or does something which is thought to be unseemly for an Armenian girl, she is told, "It is shameful" (amot e). By constantly emphasizing the importance of being proper and avoiding "shameful" behaviors, girls learn to censor their actions in order to avoid being reprimanded by their parents. Parents rarely use this strategy in disciplining boys, and there are very few behaviors that are considered "shameful" for boys.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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