Parenting stands at the confluence of many complex tributaries of influence; some arise within the individual, whereas others have external sources. Some reactions felt toward babies may be reflexive and universal; others are idiosyncratic and vary with personality. By virtue of their temperament and the quality and the contingency of their own responsiveness, infants have a major impact on how parents parent and how parents perceive themselves as parents. Family situation, social status, and culture loom large in shaping parenting and the ecology of infancy. The childrearing practices of one's own group may seem "natural" but may actually be rather unusual when compared with those of other groups. Social status differences color infantrearing practices, and cultural ideology also makes for meaningful differences in patterns of parenting beliefs and behaviors toward infants.

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