This article reviews cultural differences in the extent of segregation of children from community life and their integration with people of differing ages, focusing especially on children's engagement with older children or similar-age children. We highlight cultural differences in children's everyday companionship with older children and with peers by discussing a study using naturalistic observations of young children's days in four cultural communities. Young children were more often involved with older children (who were often related to them) among the Efe of the Ituri Forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Guatemalan Mayan town of San Pedro, whereas middle-class European American children from two regions in the United States were more frequently involved with children of similar ages (who were often unrelated to them). The mainstream research focus on similar-age (unrelated) peer involvements, often regarded as the "norm," needs to be broadened to consider the various patterns of children's social engagements worldwide, which often involve integration of children in broader communities, engaging with adults and children of all ages.
Keywords: age segregation; community involvement; cross-age relations; culture; peers; siblings.
© The Author(s) 2010.
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