India is a predominantly Hindu nation with large minorities of Sikhs and Muslims. There are more than 375 million children in India, the largest number for any country in the world. According to InfoChange, a non-profit that concentrates on sustainable development and social justice in Southeast Asia, about 36 percent of the population is living below the poverty line, with women and children accounting for 73 percent of those below the poverty line. Socio-economic conditions as well as Hindu beliefs play a large part in the child rearing practices in India.
Indians believe that children are capable of learning from a very young age and that they must be given guidance. Dr. Vicki Ritts, Associate Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Science at St. Louis Community College, says, “Obedience to authority, passivity, and interdependence are highly valued. Childhood is viewed as a sensitive time period where children are moldable. Thus, the environment, especially the parents, are believed to play an important role in child development."
Mothers and Infants
Indian mothers enjoy much physical closeness to their babies. They often carry them close to their bodies and breastfeeding is the norm. Many Indian mothers massage their babies daily using either oil or ghee. Co-sleeping during the early years is another characteristic of the close mother-infant relationship.
Discipline is often strict and children are taught to obey their parents. Mothers are the primary disciplinarians. Scolding, yelling, slapping, and spanking are considered appropriate and necessary for socializing children. Some mothers feel that beating should be used to punish the most severe offenses. A study published by the "Journal of Pediatric Psychology" showed that physical punishment is more prevalent in India than the US.
Preference for Boys
Indian families show preference for male over female children. A female child is often seen is a financial drain on a family. In addition to paying for her living expenses, the girl’s family must pay for her wedding and sometimes dowry, but after she is married all her future income goes to her new family. As a consequence, a boy is more likely to be well feed as well as receive schooling and health care. The deprivation of girls--through insufficient breastfeeding and denial of food and health care--leads to malnutrition and death. This mistreatment, along with infanticide and the aborting of female fetuses, has led to 10 million women "going missing" in India’s population, according to a report by Palash Kumar for ABC News. The ratio of men to women in the population of India shows that there were 10 million women who were killed by their parent in the past 20 years.