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 1: English children perform better on "Ravens Progressive Matrices" than Ghanaian children

2: Child rearing in Ghana is stricter than in Norway

3: Ghanian children remember better digits read to them in English than their
local languages Twi and Ewe

4:  The difference between "Digit Forward" and "Digit Backwards" is bigger in
Ghanian children compared with American and Norwegian children.

Pictures from Ghana


a: Malnutrition and/or undernourishment.

b: Lack of attention and stimulation from one year old.

c: Strict and overprotective child rearing practices.

d: Poor educational facilities.

Different factors influencing short term memory

a: The digits in Twi and Ewe are longer and harder to pronounce and rehearse
than those in English

b: Digits belong to modern live, not tribal society

The stricter child rearing practice in Ghana fits in with the notion that people there are more field dependent, that in such society is it more important to comply with traditional norms than to show independence and individuality

English and Ghanaian norms compared.

Former professor Bulley of The Department of Psychology, University of Ghana at Legon, Accra has done a standardization of Ravens Progressive Matrices in 1973. A BA thesis from 1978 by Neal Boafo is referring to The Progressive Matrices As an Instrument for Determining Educability in Ghana (Bulley 1973) The Ghanaian means deviate a lot from those based on English samples as can be seen in the table below.

Ghanaian and English norms for Ravens Progressive Matrices
Age N Ghana Mean     Ghana 
Mean England 
Difference England-Ghana in SD      IQ SD Ghana
8-10 355 13.28 24 1.3 8.12
11-12 660 16.55       81 37              97 2.5           16 8.24
13 520 22.14       81 43           100 2.1           19 10.11
14 702 28.36     84 44            102 1.5          18 10.14
15 657 29.46      87     12.12
16 773 30.52     87     11.68
17 662 32.69     88     11.63
18 662 32.85      81     12.01
19 429 35.66      86     11.50
20 359 35.81      83 44             94 0.8            11 10.55
21-24 714 38.62     86 44            94 0.5            8 10.76
25-29 380 36.59     86 42             92 0.5            6 11.35
30+ 318 32.44    88 40             96 0.6            8 12.43
The IQ scores are based upon norms from Arbeidsrådgivningskontoret i Oslo
(Occupational Counseling Office) in Oslo, NORWAY
The SD is approximately 11 raw score points on Ravens Progressive Matrices.

I have also collected some data in Ghana using Ravens Progressive Matrices and have got means
close to those of professor Bulley.

What are the reasons for this discrepancies? The discrepancy is particularly great in the 11-13 years
group, 2.1 to 2.5 SD using the SD of the Ghanian groups.. Using IQ norms the difference is not that
dramatic, at most 19 IQ points or in the order of one SD.

                                    Raven's Progressive Matrices
                                                Hong Kong and British children
                                    Percentiles and raw scores for primary school 4 to 6 (9.5 to 11.5 years)

                                 95            90            75            50            25            10            5
Hong Kong              52            51            48            43            38            29            23
England (1979)        50            47            43            39            32            26            20
From S.H. Irving & J.H. Berry (eds.1988) p.347
The Hong Kong children equals british children 13 years old, and are better than any Ghanaian age group

After having read through articles and books about related topics the following factors are suggested
as part of an explanation for the Ghanaian score:

1. Malnourishment and/or undernourishment: This can take various forms. It can be that the mother hasn't got
enough food when pregnant and this has affected the child in a negative way, or the child may have suffered from
protein deficiency or have got too little food which have made it passive and thereby less active that again have
effected learning in a negative way. Or it may not have got certain vitamins.

2: Attention: When the child is about one year old it can manage most things on its own and the mother,
 is devoting less time to the child and the stimulation that this imply. The father seems to be a rather
remote figure in most cases.

 3: Lack of things to play with: The child has few things to play with that stimulates it in various ways.

4: Strict child rearing: This may discourage interaction with the physical environment in the form of play,
sport etc., independence and curiosity. This reason has been mentioned in various publications.

5: Education: The kindergartens and schools are poorly equipped. Mostly they have only a blackboard, few
books and no visual material such as pictures and maps. There is also very much a one way communication from
teacher to the pupil. The teachers are poorly motivated and often absent from school. Their pay is such that they
can't live by it and they have mostly extra activities going to support their family. Farming is very common in
rural areas.

Comments: From the table above it can be seen that the discrepancy between the English and the Ghanaian norms
is getting less with an increasing age. This can be interpreted as the Ghanaian is catching up, but the development
is slower for one reason or another. The remaining 0.5 SD is in line with discrepancies found by Benjamin Amponsah
on spatial tests where he has been comparing Ghanaian and Norwegian teacher college students.

One important question is to know the particular samples professor Bulley has based his norms on. The samples
in school age, up to around 16 years are a fairly representative according to Professor Bully (personal communication
Jan. 98) while data from the older samples mostly were taken from people seeking either technical jobs or education.
So the older age groups seem to be better educated than the average population.

Some of the scores in my sample is so low that the children would be classified as mentally retarded. What ought to
be done is to investigate such cases more thoroughly. For instance after 2 or 3 years in school one could give a
standardized reading- and writing test to see how many reached a certain level. Out from combined test results
one could try to diagnose each case and try to find remedial measures.

Oral society and auditory short term memory: Ghana may be characterized as an oral society. There are normally no signs on buses telling where they are going, few road signs and few maps around. I had to search several weeks before I found a road map of Ghana. The driver and mate of the trotro, minibus, are shouting out their destination. The Ghanaian also seem to love music. Will this, that they attend so much to auditory information, also make them better in remembering auditory material? From my own data with congenitally blind it can be seen that they have a better short term auditor memory than comparable groups. This may be explained by that they attend more to auditory material than sighted people. But one don't find this among those that have become blind as grown up persons, which indicates that there may be a critical age when the brain is molded with respect to processing auditory information. An additional factor that apply to Ghana is that almost everybody is bilingual. Will there be a difference if digits is presented in English or the local language? Some of my data indicate that children and adolescents remember better what is read to them in English than in Twi or Ewe. Why? Maybe because the English digits are easier to say and rehearse. This may be supported by that people often use to say numbers in English while speaking their local language. So to measure short term auditory memory as in Digit Span, a sub test of WISC-R and WAIS, is not a straight forward matter.

My data from also indicate that among Ghanaian children there is a bigger difference between remembering digits forwards and backwards compared with American or Norwegian children.

What are the Ghanaian children good at? They seem to develop their musical ability together with a sense for rhythm and dance. Further, they seem to develop a good social intelligence. Ghanaians are very friendly, polite and hospitable. They have no major violent conflicts within their country which can be very damaging to a country and which has ruined several African countries.

Some ideas for future research: It would be of great interest to use some selected tests in various parts of Ghana and characterize the areas with background variables related to environmental, nutritional, social, health and educational factors. WISC-R and Ravens Progressive Matrices could be two relevant tests.

Problem: Why is Ghana, together with almost every African country, doing so poorly as far as income and living standard goes? Many will attribute it to that far more emphasis is put on social relation, particularly loyalty to their extended family, than on performing a good job, being efficient. The employee is more concerned about pleasing his superior and not go
against him than showing initiative and independence. This is related to both collectivism and a great power distance.
Gert Hofstede is showing a correlation of 0.82 between individualism and Gross Natural Product in 1970, and a
correlation of 0.77 between distance from equator and GNP.

Another factor is the ability to acquire knowledge related to modern technology like mathematics and engineering subjects. Many, Luria i.e., claim that there is a positive correlation between spatial aptitude and mathematical ability. Thus, it may be postulated that the Ghanaian culture is not giving a very good basis for acquiring knowledge related to modern technology, and this again may be related to child rearing and other factors mentioned above.

Child rearing and the Ghanaian personality.

Most Ghanian may be described as friendly, peaceful, polite, hospitable with a well developed social intelligence. At the same time they may be described as lacking in initiative, self-confidence and ability to organize and solve practical problems. A field dependent person. The Ghanaian may be a good diplomat,
Kofi Annan, a clever con man but a poor manager and engineer.

How is this related to child rearing? Discussion of this will come later.

                                   DIGIT SPAN BACKWARD AND FORWARD

                                 Class 6 & 9 in Aburi (Twi speaking) compared.
                                        Data based on individual testing and read in English.

                                CLASS             N         Mean             Std. Deviation

DIGITBW1                 6                     34        3,35                 1,20
SET 1                           9                     34        3,21                 1,34

DIGITBW2                 6                     34         3,21                 1,20
SET 2                           9                     34         3,26                 1,50

DIGITFW1                  6                     34         6,24                 1,05
SET 1                           9                     34         6,56                 1,35

DIGITFW2                  6                     34         6,21                 1,27
SET 2                           9                     34         6,18                 1,57

DIGSUM1                  6                     34          9,59                 1,64
SET 1                          9                     34          9,76                 2,22

DIGSUM2                  6                     34         9,41                   1,92
SET 2                          9                     34         9,44                   2,48

Comments: The children remember digits far better forwards than backwards
and there is no difference between class 6 and 9.

DIGSUM US               6                                 13  Score of American children
                                      9                                14  in the same age group

The boys remember better "Digits Backwards" than girls, but
there is no significant difference remembering "Digits Forwards".

Here is more similar results from Ghana  which are supporting the results above


Two language groups compared

Those speaking TWI (1) compared with those speakingEWE (2)

                                         LANGUAGE             N             Mean           S.D.
Digit Backward English      1                             139             6,40           2,03
                                          2                             107             4,74           2,73
The Twi speaking children remember better Digit Backwards" read in English than the Ewe speaking children.

Dig. Back. Loc. Language   1                             139                4,99          2,55
                                          2                             107                 5,04          2,82

Digit Forward English       1                             139                 7,02           1,87
                                         2                             107                 7,23           2,26

Dig.Fwd.Loc. Language     1                             139                 5,79            2,74
                                         2                             107                 7,02            2,40
The Ewe speaking children remember better "Digit Forwards" read in English than t
he Twi speaking children

                                                    Child Rearing Questionnaire

Ghanian (N=83) and Norwegian (N= 373) data Compared
Norwegian data from PH.D student Helle Anderson

Likert-Scale 1-6:1= not at all descriptive of me, 2= not descriptive of me, 3= rather not descriptive of me,
4= to some extent descriptive of me, 5= descriptive of me, 6=  highly descriptive of me

The differences that are most pronounced is colored. Red means more than 2 points in difference, blue 1-2 points in difference. Most Standard Deviations are between 1 and 1.5, and the D-values would be close to the point differences and they are all highly significant. More values than those with color would be statistically significantly different. Only those variables showing great differences are shown here.

                                                                                                     MEAN            MEAN
                                                                                                                                         Ghana                     Norway

CHILD04 Help child when teased                                                   3.79*                4.81
CHILD08  Wish partner more interested in our children                   5.33***                1.96
CHILD10 Keeping child away from different families                           3.99**                 1.96
CHILD11  Keep away from rough games                                            5.14*               4.09
CHILD12   Physical punishment                                                     2.58*                1.39
CHILD13  Seen and not heard                                                   3.54**1.39*             1.38
CHILD15   Express affection, hugging.kissing                                         4.58*              5.75
CHILD18  Wish child did not grow up so fast                                         2.11*              3.37
CHILD20   I find it difficult to punish child                                                                   2.60*              4.22
CHILD23   I do not allow child to get angry with me                             4.11 **1.96*          2.07
CHILD24    My child is a bit of disappointment to me                             2.24*                 1.08
CHILD25   I exspect a great deal of my child                                           4.87*              3.60
CHILD26    Easygoing and relaxed with my child                                       4.12*             5.13
CHILD28    I am spoiling the child                                                 1.48**                3.91
CHILD42   Teach child to control his feelings                                      4.58 **2.66*           2.55
CHILD43   Keep away from fighting                                                     5.23*              3.99
CHILD47   Give extra privileges if behaving well                                   4.94*                 3.82
CHILD49   Too much love harmful                                        4.30***              1.35
CHILD50   Scolding make child improve                                               3.42*                  1.83
CHILD51   Child should be aware of my sacrifice for him                                    4.69** 2.44*         1.81
CHILD52   Worried about health of my child                                      5.11**               2.62
CHILD55    I like to have some time for myself away from child                         3,87*                4.99
CHILD56   Ashamed if misbehaving                                                     5,01* 3.18*          3.46
CHILD60   Instruct child not get dirty when playing                                     4,57**2.06*       2.21
CHILD61    Jealousy and quarrelling between siblings should be punished            4,30**             2.01
CHILD62    Learn not to cry at an early age                                           3,61**            1.25
CHILD63    Control by warning about bad things that can happen to him           5,06**2.71*      2.59
*= Norwegian results from Renuka Sethis data

Interpretation: It looks as if the Ghanian child get as much nurture as the Norwegian child, but are more readily
punished and required to control his feelings. The control aspect seems much stronger in Ghana than Norway.


What are the educational and economical concequences of a culture with this child-rearing practice?

What are the political consequences?  How does it affect the society?

What can be done to implement changes?

Who should decide what with respect to changes and on what grounds?

How can knowledge from this field be used together with other theories?

For further discussions, see this in Norwegian   or  this in English

This paper is a preliminary draft. Comments are welcome. Contact me by e-mail, snail mail or in person
for discussion and/or comments

Bjarne Fjeldsenden
Dept. of Psychology, NTNU
7491 Trondheim


Elliot, J.M. (1991) Is Language Important in Mental Aritmetic?  Singapore Journal of Education, 11, No 2, 35-44
Irvine, S.H. & Berry, J.H.(1988) (eds.)  Human Abilities in Cultural Context. New York. Cambridge University Press
Global Environmental Change
SV PSY 312 Krysskulturell psykologi v. 2000   Links in English and Norwegian
The Environmental Threat to Human Intelligence
SV PSY 312 Krysskulturell psykologi v. 2000    Links related to the topic cross-cultural psychology
About intelligence  Interesting links about intelligence in English.
NATURE, CULTURE, CHILD REARING AND COGNITION  A more detailed rapport about the same topic.
CULTURES CONSEQUENCES  discusses Hofstedes book and other dimensions of culture.