According to Stewart, in those parts of Hawaii to which the influence of the missionaries had not penetrated, two-thirds of the infants born were murdered by their parents within the age of two years. In Tahiti, three women questioned by Mr. Williams acknowledged that they had killed twenty-one of their children between them. Another at the point of death confessed to him in an anguish of remorse that she had destroyed sixteen of her children.
Frazer, James George. 1922. The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead, Vol. 2 (of 3): The Belief Among the Polynesians, Chapter III: The Belief in Immortality among the Samoans, § 1. The Samoan Islands, Footnote 24. McMillan and Co.
This is the typical life among those noble savages some folks on this blog cheer on. Hunter-gatherers had no birth control, so children came all the time. There’s just not enough food around for every woman to have 12-27 kids. It’s not going to work. And honestly, it’s better to kill one child who has barely seen life than to let the whole group die of starvation. The greater good and the lesser of two evils and all that.
Among the Ache of Paraguay, 100% of Ache children witness their mothers murdering one or more of their brothers or sisters, often before age four. You wonder what sort of effect that would have on someone.
Essentialists or Determinists, which include some psychoanalytic types, would say that certain things that a human experiences in life have inevitable damaging effects on the psyche. So if a child witnesses his mother murdering his toddler sibling, this will have an inevitable scarring effect on the psyche no matter what. Similarly, if a child is molested by an adult before some set age (which feminist crazies keep pushing upwards), there will be serious and inevitable damaging effects on the psyche of that child no matter what. Some things are just inherently damaging psychologically 100% of the time.
Culturalists would take another approach and say that the psychological effects of certain experiences depend on the culture.
So while seeing one’s toddler sibling being murdered by your own mother is no doubt rather traumatizing, if you grow up in a culture where all children witness these scenes, it simply because one or the norms of growing up in that society, children simply accept it as normal behavior and there is little if any psychological damage.
Similarly, there are hunter-gatherer cultures where almost all of the children are molested by adults before age 12. Generally there is no physical damage. Culturalists would say that if you grow up in a culture where all the kids get molested by adults, you simply accept that as normal behavior and the acts cause little if any harm.
Where do you stand, with the Determinists or with the Culturalists? Are some experiences inherently damaging to the psyche or is it all culture-dependent based on what your culture defines as normal behavior?