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Culture and Developmental Processes: the

Ethiopian context
Alemayehu Tibebe

Life Span Development

An Introduction
Development can be defined as systematic changes and continuities in the individual
that occur between conception and death, or from “womb to tomb.” Development
entails many changes, and by describing these changes as systematic, we imply that
they are orderly, patterned, and relatively enduring. Development also involves
continuities, ways in which we remain the same or continue to reflect our pasts.
The systematic changes and continuities of human development fall in to three broad
1. Physical development: the growth of the body and its organs, the functioning of
physiological systems, the appearance of physical signs of aging, changes in
motor abilities, and so on.
2. Cognitive development: changes and continuities in perception, language,
memory, problem solving, and other mental processes.
3. Psychosocial development: change and carryover in personal and
interpersonal aspects of development such as motives, emotions, personality
traits, interpersonal skills and relationships, and roles played in the family and in
the larger society.
Two important processes underlie developmental change: maturation and learning.
Maturation is the biological un-folding of the individual according to a plan contained
in the genes (the hereditary material passed from parents to child at conception).
Just as seeds systematically become mature plants, human beings “unfold” within
the womb (assuming that they receive the necessary nourishment from their
environment). Maturational changes in the brain contribute to cognitive changes
such as increased memory skills and psychosocial changes such as increased
understanding of other people’s feelings. Genetically influenced maturational
processes guide all of us through many of the same developmental changes at
about the same points in our lives. The second critical developmental process is
learning – the process through which experience brings about relatively permanent
changes in thoughts, feelings, or behaviour. A certain degree of physical maturation
is clearly necessary before a child can dribble a basket ball. Throughout the life
span, we learn from our experiences and changes in response to the environment –
all the external physical and social conditions and events that can affect us, from
crowded living quarters stimulating social interactions. As we will see time and time
again, developmental changes are generally the products of a complex interplay
between “nature” (genetic endowment and maturation) and “nurture” (environmental
influences and learning).
It is not difficult to demonstrate that human development differs from culture to
culture. Just as life expectancies have differed from historical period to historical
period, they differ from nation to nation today.
Just as the life span has been viewed differently in different historical eras, different
societies today also have their own way of dividing in to socially meaningful periods,
or age grades (Fry, 1999). In western industrialized societies, the life span is often
visualized as a straight line extending from birth to death. In some cultures, however,
the recognized phases include a period before birth as well as an afterlife, or the
lifespan may be pictured as a circle that includes reincarnation, or some other way of
being “recycled” and born again (Fry, 1999).
In this chapter, we’re going to see how culture influences a number of developmental
psychological processes. This culture specific descriptive study provides a
comprehensive view of the unique cultural practices that influences and mold
developmental psychological processes of the different nations, nationalities and
peoples of Ethiopia.
Age grades, Age norms and the social clock
Age – like gender, race, and other significant human characteristics – means
different things in different societies. Each society has its ways of dividing the
lifespan and treating the individual who fall in to different age groups. Each
socially defined age group in a society – called an age grade, or age stratum – is
assigned different status, roles privileges, and responsibilities. Once it has
established age grades, each society also defines what people should and should
not be doing at different points in the life span. According to Bernice Neugarten
and her colleagues (Neugarten, Moore, and Lowe, 1965), these expectations, or
age norms, are society way of telling people how to act their age. In Ethiopia, the
Oromo societies developed their own cultural, social and political system known
as the Gadaa system. It is a uniquely democratic political and social institution that
governed the life of every individual in the society from birth to death. Gada is a
way of life for oromos. It consists of two underlying concepts: gada-sets or ages
and gada-grades. The gada-sets are the first 40 years of life through which all
males pass in five eight year initiation periods. The grades are the stages through
which all males enter the gada system 40 years after their fathers. The grades are
the stages of development through which the group passes. The full cycle of the
gada consisting of 10 grades was divided in to two periods forty years each.
During his life time every oromo man had ideally to pass through 10 classes of
eight years each. The gada age classification system is similar to age-sets
practiced by the Massai, kikuyu, and Nuer. (See table 1.1)
Age grades class (in oromiffa)
Birth to 8 years debale
8 – 16 years kerie
16 – 24 years kondala
24 – 32 years baba
32 – 40 years dori
40 – 48 years gadda
48 – 56 years battu
56 – 64 years yubba
64 – 72 years yubba gadda
72 – 80 years jarsa
Prenatal development and birth in Ethiopia: Culture and
Prenatal development is one of the development aspects that takes place from
conception (female reproduction cell, ovum is fertilized by a male reproductive cell,
spermatozoon) to birth through the course of approximately 280 days. During its nine
months inside the womb, the fetus acquires all essential human physical features
and some relevant human behaviors.
Most Ethiopian women recognize their pregnancy 2 months later, after their
menstrual period is ceased. Antenatal checkup is not common; the size of the
mother stomach is used to know the fetus physical development.
Unlike the germinal and embryonic period, most women are well aware about the
development of the fetuses during their 4months of pregnancy (i.e. in the fetal
period). At this stage the mother surprisingly feel some kinds of movement inside her
womb. This indicates that motor developments are begin to develop but at the age of
6 months, there is a clearly recognized movement. At the age of 7 months to birth,
the fetus can respond to the external stimuli. (I.e. noise, sound and heats), for
example, there is a belief that when the mother is exposed to noise and heat, the
fetus will make a sudden movement and kick the womb.
Traditionally, when labour starts, the birthing woman will go to the house of her
mother. When she arrives at her mothers village, all the men leave the family hut and
the women of the village gather to provide support and encouragement. By the time
most women give birth themselves, they have already witnessed the births of
siblings, cousins and other children of the village. Childbirth is not hidden from them
as it is in many other cultures so most women go into labour without fear. The
women of the village stay with the birthing woman throughout her labour, with one
woman always near her head and one behind her to support her and hold her up.
When the awaladje (local midwife) arrives she brings her only tools: a razor blade,
some string and the leaves of the castor bean plant. The women sing and tell stories
and stay with the birthing woman for as long as the labour lasts. Children come in
and out of the hut but no male child over the age of seven is allowed in.

As in every culture, the people of Ethiopia have their own particular ideas and beliefs
about childbirth. Here, birth ritual is steeped in the Christian religion. Most Ethiopians
belong to the Coptic Church, which is believed to be the oldest Christian sect in the
world. In their belief system, the Virgin Mary, or Miriam as they call her, oversees
and protects the birth process. When a pregnant woman prays for the protection of
her baby, she prays to Miriam. When she is in labor and prays for relief from the
pain, she prays to Miriam. The castor bean leaf used in labour is also connected to
Miriam Miriam was believed to have used the leaves of the castor bean to cover
herself when she journeyed to the place where she gave birth.

As the labour progresses and the pains become more difficult, women of the village
pray and chant to Miriam to help the birthing woman cope. Sometimes, when a
labour is very long and difficult the women of the village will put huge rocks on their
shoulders and walk around the hut trying to take some of the burden of the mother’s
pain and to encourage her to keep going. If the labor become more severs, the
husband tends to untie his belt and leave away from home.

When the baby arrives the birth attendant will catch the baby in the castor bean
leaves. She will measure four fingers width on the cord then tie string on both sides
and use a razor blade to cut it. Another castor bean leaf is used to push on the
genitals to protect the uterus from coming out. When the time comes to birth the
placenta the women dig a hole in the floor of the hut and the new mother squats and
births the placenta in the hole where it will be buried. If the woman’s perineum tears,
the awaladge will wash the area with warm water then paint the perineum with
clarified butter every day for one or two weeks.

The postpartum period lasts a long time for Ethiopian women. The new mother stays
in the hut, mostly in bed, for 40 days. She is considered unclean and cannot enter a
church during that 40-day period. She will not cook any food or perform any of her
normal duties in the village. Her mother or another woman of the village will prepare
a special dish for her which is believed to have special healing properties for a
postpartum woman. The dish is a type of porridge made from roasted, crushed
barley and topped with spiced clarified butter. She will also drink diluted tella, a
homemade beer.

After she gives birth the woman will not be left alone with her baby for 10 days.
Ethiopian believes that during this time the new mother is more likely to become
crazy or possessed and may harm herself or the baby. To prevent harm, either
another woman or a child will always be with her. Soon after the birth a priest from
the closest church will come and bless the baby and sprinkle holy water on any
family member who has touched the woman. Since she is unclean during those 40
days the holy water is meant to protect anyone who has had contact with the mother.
The possibility of death for mother or baby during childbirth is a concern for every
family. If the mother dies during childbirth, the baby will be forced to swallow fresh
butter until another family member can breastfeed the baby. If the family has no
lactating women the awaladge will see to it that one of the women of the village will
agree to feed the baby.

As ∗Deborah Craig (2005) explains, while in the U.S. we have medicalized birth to
the point of absurdity, here in a small pocket of the country, a place called
Bellingham, Washington, we have choices that women in Ethiopia could not even
dream of. We can choose from hospital, home or birth center. We can choose a
doctor or midwife. We can have our friends and family present or we can choose to
be alone with our partners. We can choose to take childbirth classes, read books
about labor and watch birth videos. We can choose to use birth balls, water birth
tubs and doulas. But whatever we choose, like the women in Ethiopia, we need to
believe in ourselves and our amazing ability to give life.

Unique cultural practices and customs related to pregnancy and


Pregnancy and childbearing are highly influenced by the cultural practices and
customs of the society. Different societies have different conception of pregnancy
and child birth. For instance, the measures related to pre-birth customs, traditions,
and beliefs mainly focus on avoiding infertility, conception, cravings, pregnancy,
predetermining the child’s sex, and things pregnant women are expected to avoid
differs widely across culture.
In many areas of Ethiopia when a woman aware her pregnancy for the first time,
special ceremony (mostly coffee) is prepared and when the child delivered, the
women’s mother or other close relatives prepare a porridge and celebrate the birth of
a child.
In Amhara, Tigray and Oromia regions of Ethiopia, there is a belief that Pregnant
mothers must keep away from evil things and ugly people, because, the society
expects that if she observes such things, the baby will born with the same behavior
as the evil things and ugly people.

Deborah Craig lives in Bellingham, Wa. with her partner, Negash and their two children,

Makela and Mario. She teaches natural childbirth classes and enjoys collecting stories of
birth rituals from around the world.
It is common to massage the pregnant mother’s stomach by using a stone which is
smooth. 8 to 9 month pregnant mothers are advised to work heavy activities in
hoping to make the labor flexible and faster. Also, it is advisable to make sex around
8 and 9 months of pregnancy in order to make the child's age smart ,bright and
clear locally known as 'yayin Megelecha'.
Infancy and unique cultural practices in Ethiopia

It is clear that infancy (birth to age 2) is one of the most critical periods of the life
span as the infant acquires various capacities which have a greater importance to
develop new capacities and masteries in the coming stages of development. As it is
indicated above, developmental process during infancy also inevitably subjected to
cultural influences and the author would like to discuss the unique cultural practices
and customs that influence developmental processes during infancy in Ethiopia.

Infant development is characterized by rapid physical development with which the

infant acquires all the necessary capacities that helps him/her to survive. The weight
of the new born infant has a clinical importance to know and predict the health status
of the newborn baby. In rural Ethiopia, people make judgements about the weight of
the infant with no employment of modern weighting material; they simply look at a
child and say the infant is big or small.
Height is measured traditionally by harm or other local materials and this
measurement helps them to predict the infant physique as an adult. The milk teeth,
locally known as GIG teeth has to be extracted to avoid symptoms of diarrhoea,
crying and high body temperature. The early onset of milk teeth has its own
connotation that it is related with hereditary matters or the deeds of the father. The
society called the father of a baby who show early onset of milk teeth by saying thief
of stick or yebetir leba.
A reflex is an unlearned and involuntary response to a stimulus, readily observed in
all normal newborns. However, it is obvious that there is a difference in achievement
of particular motor milestone. I found that it is uneasy to discuss the motor
development of this period due to the lack of detail scientific evidence. Interestingly,
many Ethiopians believed that reflex actions demonstrate that the child is healthy
and playing with angels.
When the baby reaches 6 months old, the baby lays naked on many layers of round
injera (the favourite pancake like Ethiopian food made from a tiny indigenous grain
called teff) and everyone prays and says thank you that the baby is alive and
physically growing, and the family is blessed and has food to eat and it is a gratitude
to God that the baby has lived and physically healthy. Injera is used because "this is
the food that keeps us alive". This can happen at anytime but often after several

Another interesting Ethiopian unique cultural practice during the period of infancy is
AKAMASH – after the successful completion of birth process, the new born infant
given to the mother with a motto “ hold your infant, forget the labour”. The practice of
akamash takes place followed by the motto; it is the process of forcing the baby to
swallow butter and putting butter in the infant head to make the infant brave and hard
worker. During the process for male infant a man stand with gun at the back yard. In
case of female infants a woman stands at the backyard by holding wesfe (needle like
material). It is believed that the infant acquires the personality of a person who
performs the akamash practice. Contrary to the akamash practice, in Somalia
region, there is a belief that the infant personality is shaped by the person who holds
the infant for the first time.
The majority of girls undergo some form of female genital mutilation (FGM), which is
widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical and
psychological health. Clitoridectomies typically are performed 7 days after birth and
consist of an excision of the labia. A male infant also circumcised by their 7th day of
infancy, the ceremony is called Gulban day, in this ceremony 10 Injera will be
prepared to be eaten by young boys gathered around the ceremony.
Another interesting and unique cultural practice during infancy is the process of
forecasting the behaviour of a child based on the season in which the child is born.
This practice is prevalent around the eastern Gojjam areas of Ethiopia. See the table
below (table 1.2):

Season Future behaviour

Sept.-Nov. • Happy
(spring) • Enjoyable
• Romantic and sociable, because, after 3 months of rain
the sun begin to rise and the flowers are seen.
Dec. –Feb. • Rich since the season is harvesting time in Ethiopia

March –May • Egre lemlem (lucky)

June-Aug. • Selfish
• Argumentative
• Aggressive
• easily irritated

Table 1.2 Season of the child birth as a predictor of behaviour

Childhood Development: Culture and Socialization

From age 2 until puberty, children gain about 2 to 3 inches in height and 5 to 6
pounds in weight every year (National Centre for Health statistics, 2000a). Infants
and toddlers are quite capable of controlling their movements in relation to a
stationary world, but children master the ability to move capably in a changing
environment (Sayer & Gallagher, 2001). Older children have quicker reactions than
young children do. In studies of reaction time, a stimulus, such as light, suddenly
appears, the subject’s task is to respond to it as quickly as possible – for example by
pushing a button. These studies reveal that reaction time improves steadily
throughout child hood (Eaton & Ritchot, 1995; Yan et al., 2000). As children get
older, they can carryout any number of cognitive processes more quickly as well
(Kali, 1991; Van Galen, 1993).

Contextual/ systems theories hold that changes over the lifespan arise from the
ongoing interactions and mutual influence between a changing organism and a
changing world. Changes in the person produce changes in his or her environment;
changes in the environment produce changes in the person. It is impossible to think
about the individual in isolation from the physical and social contexts with which he
or she interacts because they are all part of a larger system (Wachs, 2000).
Therefore, it very crucial to view the childhood development with related cultural
practices, norms and traditions of people. Below we will take a brief look at on the
unique cultural practices, customs and traditions that produce changes in the
developing child by keeping view of the Ethiopian context.

In rural Ethiopia Children receive little discipline until about age five to seven, but
thereafter are socialized with authoritarian discipline. Boys herd cows and sheep
and girls assist their mothers in watching babies and gathering wood. According to
Abbink (1996) Up to 8, Surma boys and girls learn and do similar things, and then it
differs due to gender. Up to 12 they stay at home, later outside. Parent – child
relations are relaxed, not authoritarian. There is no corporal punishment, only verbal
scolding and instructing. Children are encouraged to be verbally articulate –
anticipate the actions and plans of others. Surma children thus develop a high ‘social
Unlike the Surma people, Child-rearing practices in Siltigna-speaking community are
authoritarian. The study shows that both parents and children in the Silte community
agree that relations between them are formal, authoritative, restrictive and do not
encourage independence or initiative in the young. Children should not ask
questions, express their views or make conversation with adults. Early marriage is
common and arranged by parents (Abraham 1996).
Many societies in Ethiopia have their own way of protecting children from evil things,
according to Janetius (2007) due to the popular belief that health is a ’gift of God’
and evil forces can cause sickness. Many Ethiopians believe that they need religion
and the magical healing practices associated with it desperately to keep them
healthy. Also due to this fact, the influence of orthodox Christianity has many religio-
magical healing practices which are very popular among every Ethiopian. The
primary form of well-accepted traditional religio-magical healing for every Orthodox
Christian is the Holy water or ‘tsebel’. Outside the church, it is the ‘Debteras’
(defrocked priests or priest students) who controls the religio-magical healings.
‘Debteras’ participate in liturgy as singers and musicians and, outside the Church
religio-magical healers by performing as herbalists, astrologers, fortune-tellers etc.
kitab or amulets are also prepared and give by them to be worn to wade away the
evil spirits and evil eye (buda) from children.
Tigrian people use something harmful, what they considered to avoid evil eye
(‘Buda’) by burn the children head at the corner of their eye by using very hot
material. They believe that when they burn the child the pain is transmitted to the
person who harm the child by his evil eye and the child relieve form the problem.

Adolescence: culture and socialization

Socialization generally refers to the process in which people learn the skills,
knowledge, values, motives, and roles (i.e., culture) of the groups to which they
belong or the communities in which they live. It should be pointed out that
socialization includes two components (Long and Hadden 1985). The first
component of socialization is the process, mentioned above, that leads to the
adoption of culture. The second component is the outcome of the process, for
example, "Was the socialization successful?" or "He has been socialized to believe
God exists." Socialization is seen as society's principal mechanism for influencing
the development of character and behaviour. Most sociologists treat socialization "as
cornerstone both for the maintenance of society and for the well-being of the
individual" (Long and Hadden, 1985). Again the author would like to remind that like
other stages of developmental process, adolescence is also influenced by the
broader social contexts in which it occurs.
The Surma
The Mursi or Murzu tribe is from Debub Omo River Zone in south Ethiopia near the
Sudan. The Mursi, Suri and Me’en tribes are sometimes grouped together and call
the Surma tribe.
The Surma have 2 similar subgroups, Chai and Tirma and speak a Nilo-Saharan
language. Economy: livestock, gold, cultivation of sorghum, maize and garden crops.
It is a close-knit society with a remarkable amount of solidarity and cultural unity with
multiple informal learning contexts. The authority structure is based on age-grades.
“Junior elders” are most important. “Young men” or “warriors” are responsible for
herding stock and defence and are in a respectful relationship to junior elders
(Abbink, 1996). The distinctive feature of the Mursi tribe is the characteristic lip
plates worn by Mursi adolescent girls. Another Mursi tribe ritual involves the stick
fighting ceremony of adolescents which is called the“donga.” This ritual is performed
by the males of this naked African tribe. The winners of the contests are selected by
Mursi girls to have relations.
The Hamar
The Hamer or Hamar tribe is from the Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia, One of the
Hamer tribe’s most important rituals is the bull jumping ceremony. During the Hamer
bull jumping ceremony, a young man attempts to jump over bulls without falling while
naked. Once the Hammer tribe man successfully completes the bull jumping, he
becomes a member of the “Maza,” a social set of adult males who have completed
the same feat. In addition, the Hamer man will be able to marry a Hamer girl.
Another fascinating part of this ceremony is the ritual whipping of the sisters of the
man participating in the bull-jumping ritual. The Hamer girls are flogged on their
unclothed backs, causing gashes and later scars. This ritual is thought to reinforce
familial bonds as the sister who took part in the bull-jumping ceremony will be well
treated for by the man in times of necessity. The Hamer girls also take part in this
In addition to the above mentioned unique cultural practices related with
adolescence Child marriages are still traditions in rural Amhara and Tigray regions
of Ethiopia. Young brides, even below 10 years of age, are married off to
adolescent boys and thus the cycle of ignorance, poverty, health hazards
continue. Girls normally marry at age 14, and the groom is three to five years
older. Most marriages are negotiated by the two families, with a civil ceremony
sealing the contract. A priest may be present. Divorce is allowed and must also
be negotiated. There is also a "temporary marriage," by oral contract before
witnesses. The woman is paid housekeeper's wages, and is not eligible for
inheritance, but children of the marriage are legally recognized and qualify for
inheritance. Priests may marry but not eligible for divorce or remarriage.
Adult socialization and culture in Ethiopia

According to Sigelman and Rider (2003), the years of infancy, childhood, and
adolescence are all a preparation for entry in to adult life. Physiologically, young
adults are at their peak; strength, endurance, reaction time, perceptual abilities, and
sexual responsiveness are all optimal, even though the aging process is taking
slight, and usually not even noticeable, tolls on the body. Early adult hood is also a
period of effective cognitive functioning.
However, middle adult hood often strikes us a more settled period than early
adulthood, but it is certainly not devoid of change. Gradual declines in the body and
its physical capacities that began in the 20s and 30s may become noticeable. In this
period intellectual capacities generally remain quite stable, middle aged adults
gradually gain some intellectual capacities and lose others. Personality that took
from during childhood and that solidified during adolescence and early adulthood
tend to persist in to later adulthood, although significant change is possible.
By the time adults are in their 60s and 70s, most of them have a physical impairment
of some kind – a chronic disease, a disability, failing eyesight or hearing, or at the
least, a slower nervous system and slower reactions. As they enter their 80s and
90s, more and more adults take longer to learn things, experience occasional
memory lapses, or have difficulty in solving novel problems. They continue to lead
active social lives, use their sophisticated social cognitive skills to understand other
people engage in complex moral reasoning, and enjoy close ties with both family and
Having said all what is stated above, the author introduce you to unique cultural
practices and tradition that influence adult development in Ethiopian societies.
For example, marriage is a critical adult development issues and can be described
as a culturally approved relationships or a union of one man and one woman
(monogamy), of one man and two or more woman (polyandry), in which there is
cultural endorsement of sexual intercourse between the marital partners of the
opposite and, generally, the expectation that children will be born of the relationship
(International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 1977).
Gidda Oromo community is found in Gidda Kiremu district, one of the 17 districts of
east Wollega Zone (Ethiopia). The district is located in the northern part of the east
Wollega zone with an area of 2739 km2. This community have a traditional marriage
ceremony which descended from earlier times (antiquities). The most typical is
Naqataa (betrothal) form of marriage where the ceremony starts at the moment
when marriage is first thought of and even continues after the marriage is concluded
in such case as Ilillee, Mana Aseennaa, Minje Deebii and Torban Taa’umsa.
Bethortal is a form marriage mostly arranged by the parents of the bride and groom
with a great deal of negotiation. Traditionally the groom's parents search for a bride
for their son. Before they make any contact with the bride's parents, the groom's
parents research back seven generations to make sure that the famalies are not
related by blood. Once this has been done, the boy's parents then make contact with
the girl’s parents through a mediator. The mediator goes to the home of the girl’s
parents and asks if their daughter will marry the son of the other parents. The girls's
parents often impose conditions and the mediator will take the message to the boy's
parents, and then arrange a date for both parents to meet at a mutually convenient
location. When the parents have reached an agreement, the man and woman get
engaged (betrothed). The parents then set a wedding date and they meet all the
wedding expenses (Gemechu & Assefa, 2006).
Other types of marriage
Sabbat marii is the second most frequently exercised type of marriage among this
society. Indirectly it is a forceful marriage, which is practiced in a hurry. It is asking a
girl for marriage which is done by breaching appointment arrangements or it is
asking a girl for marriage without prior arrangement. Sabbat marii literally means
rolling or folding a sabbataa (a long step of cloth, which is worn by Oromos of Gidda
area round their waist) and it connotes a state of fact where the specific time set for
a matter is fold and the case is desired to get its conclusion right there (Gemechu &
Assefa, 2006).


This mode is characterized by that when a boy remains qerroo (bachelor) for several
reasons either because he is not handsome or he is from a family of low social
status, the way he gets married is advised by his parents. The boy has no consent of
the family of the girl. Sometimes, the girl’s mother is involved in arranging marriage
of her daughter through hawwii, but she keeps the secret in order not to make it
known to her husband (the girl’s father). This type of marriage is common among
poor people and because of this the best alternative is secret selection type of
marriage. Then the boy tells his father to go on negotiating the marriage where by
then the father or any representative, or even the boy him self starts finding a friend
around her house. It is mostly the girl’s sayyuu (wife of the girl’s brother) that the boy
approaches and whom he thinks that she can keep secret and acts on a go-between
(Gemechu & Assefa, 2006).
The Oromo of this area call butii the type of marriage, which is accomplished by
force. This mode of acquiring wife in the Gidda Oromo has its reason of taking place
especially on the part of the man, when the boy is refused by girl’s parents, by the
girl herself, if he is asked too much money as a bride wealth and different kind of
gifts which he cannot afford. This type of marriage takes of the following two forms.
The first is when the girl has consented she is induced to be abducted. The second
is form is accomplished by compulsion without any prior knowledge of the abduction
(unlike the first from) on the part of the girl (Gemechu & Assefa, 2006).
‘Wierse’ Marriage: This cultural practice is common in the southern nations
specifically in Wolyta. In the marriage, if a married adult is dead, the younger brother
or either of the cousins will marry the wife of the dead so that the responsibilities that
were carried by the dead will be covered including the child rearing. Also there will
be no more conflict in division of possessions because the replaced person will be
the owner of all the possessions of the dead.
‘Seleva’ Marriage is practiced in areas of Benishangul Gumz. An early adult (mostly
the late teens and early 20’s in the culture) who wanted to marry a girl in this area
must kill another person and cut off the penis of the dead. The penis will be used to
play the drum on the wedding ceremony.
Edir, a social institution headed by elders in Ethiopia
Edir is a traditional community organization in which the members assist each other
during the mourning process. Members make monthly financial contributions forming
the Edir's fund. They will be entitled to receive a certain sum of money from this fund,
the rate of which varies based on how close the deceased is to the Edir member.
The purpose for such payment is to help cover the funeral and other expenses
associated with the death. In addition, female members of the Edir take turns to do
the house work, such as preparing food for the mourning family. People from the
Edir come to comfort the mourners. Usually, the male members take the
responsibility to arrange the funeral, and erect a temporary tent to shelter guests
who come to visit the mourning family. Edir members are required to stay with the
mourning family and comfort them for three full days (seven days in Tigray).
Developmental psychological processes Still, much work remains to be done. In
particular, cross-cultural developmental work has focused largely on infants and
children, but mainstream psychology has come to recognize the importance of
developmental processes throughout the life span, including adolescence, young,
middle, and older adulthood, and old age.
The developmental differences discussed in this chapter all speak to how a sense of
culture develops in each of us. As cultures exert their influence in their own special
and unique ways, they produce specific tendencies, trends, and differences in their
members when compared to others. When we are in the middle of a culture, as we
all are, we cannot see those differences or how culture itself develops in us. Only
when we look outside ourselves and examine the developmental and socialization
processes of other cultures are we able to see what we are ourselves. Only then can
we come to appreciate that those differences and similarities are our culture, or at
least manifestations of our culture.
Thus, while cultures produce differences in development that we observe in our
research, these differences simultaneously contribute to the development of culture.
The term culture would mean the entire range of activities, beliefs, lifestyle, habits,
rituals, arts, ethics and behavioral patterns of a society. Yet despite the wide
definition of culture, the elements of culture being too varied and divergent, as this
chapter on culture and developmental psychological processes tried to show, it is
uneasy to create relationship between culture and developmental psychological
processes. Through out this chapter, we have seen that development is a complex
interplay between the developing person and the changing environment with
particular emphasis on the cultural contexts that produce influence on the developing
person. The unique cultural practices, customs and traditions of the Ethiopia people
found to be best to understand the influence culture produce in the developmental
process and the influence produced by the developing person on the environment
(culture). However, so much work needs to be done to use this unique culture and
traditions of Ethiopia as the source of scientific knowledge in the developing field
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