• Article

Do schooling and urban residence develop cognitive skills at the expense of social responsibility? A study of adolescents in the Gambia, West Africa

The recent growth of schooling and urban residence represents a major change to the cultural context of child development across Africa. The aim of this article is to examine the relationship between these social changes in the Gambia and the development of both cognitive skills and behaviors viewed by participant communities as the basis for success in village life, comprising six aspects of social responsibility. We compared these skills and behaviors in a sample of 562 Gambian adolescents (M age = 17.1 years) from 10 villages who had either attended a government primary school (n = 207; 36.8%) or a madrasa (n = 355; 63.2%). A total of 235 participants (41.8%) had spent a short time living in the Gambia's major urban center (median visit duration of 4.2 months). This temporary urban residence was associated with improved performance in all six cognitive tests and a decrease in five of the six social responsibility scores, as rated by adults in the community. Government schooling was associated with improved performance in five of the six cognitive tests, but there was no consistent relationship with social responsibility ratings. Associations may result from the profiles of young Gambians who choose or who are selected to go to school or live in the city, or they may result from the effects of those environments on their behaviors and skills. In either case, the implications of our findings are that schooling values certain cognitive abilities and urban life values these cognitive abilities too but devalues social responsibility.

Citation

Jukes, M. C. H., Zuilkowski, S. S., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2018). Do schooling and urban residence develop cognitive skills at the expense of social responsibility? A study of adolescents in the Gambia, West Africa. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 49(1), 82-98. DOI: 10.1177/0022022117741989

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