Personality Development in Two Cultures is the outgrowth of an extensive investigation of the different patterns of personality, cognitive, and perceptual development of school children in Mexico and the United States. It presents and analyzes the results of a study in which over eight hundred children in Mexico City and Austin, Texas, were tested repeatedly over a six-year period under the supervision of highly respected Mexican and American psychologists.
Using an overlapping longitudinal design, the psychologists tested three groups of children in each culture, beginning at ages six, nine, and twelve, and continuing through ages eleven, fourteen, and seventeen. Thus, data for a twelve-year age span were obtained in the six-year study. Special precautions were taken to ensure that the basic test battery given individually to each child once a year would yield comparable results in the Spanish and English languages and in the Mexican and American cultures. In close communication throughout the project, the two staffs worked to standardize techniques of testing, interviewing, and evaluation. Methodological, psychometric, and intercorrelational studies were carried out on test and interview variables within each culture, and samples matched for age, sex, and socioeconomic status were selected from the total set of children for cross-cultural analysis. Clear and uniform differences were found across the two cultures for many psychological dimensions and test scores, as well as a number of interactions between culture and age, sex, or social class. The result is a unique study, remarkable for its meticulous and sophisticated methodology and for its efforts to achieve both sample equivalence and equivalence of instruments and procedures across cultures.
The authors propose six major hypotheses concerning personality differences between Mexicans and Americans: Americans tend to cope with problems in a more active way; Americans tend to be more dynamic, technological, and external; American cognitive structure tends to be more complex and differentiated; Mexicans tend to be family-centered, and Americans individual-centered; Mexicans tend to be cooperative and Americans competitive; and Mexicans tend to have a more fatalistic outlook on life.