Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Effect of globalisation on children's mental health

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 30 June 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:37
  1. Sami Timimi (, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist1
  1. 1 Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Trust, South Rauceby, Sleaford, Lincolnshire NG34 8QA
  • Accepted 14 June 2005

Globalisation is resulting in inappropriate domination of the Western view of mental health as well as of economic approaches. Western child psychiatrists have much to learn from child rearing practices in other countries


Children's behaviour is influenced by child rearing philosophies and cultural socialisation processes.1 2 Globalisation is imposing Western culture and views of mental health around the world with the assumption that they are superior to those in non-Western cultures. Although there are numerous examples of problematic child rearing beliefs in many non-Western cultures (such as female circumcision), many practices are effective and should be preserved. Indeed, child psychiatrists in the West could gain new knowledge from examining childcare practices across the world.

Child rearing and culture

Freedom is one of the dominant ideologies of the Western market economy. At an emotional level the appeal for freedom can be understood as an appeal to rid us of the restrictions imposed by authority (such as parents, communities, and governments).3 This results in a value system built around the idea of looking after the wants of the individual, who should be free from the impingements, infringements, and limitations that other people represent. However, individuals can end up being so insulated that they see obligations to others and harmony with the wider community as obstacles rather than objectives.

Domination of market values has led to a consumerism that drives an obsession with growth, whereby perpetual growth and expansion are necessary for proper functioning of the global economy.4 Despite several decades of sustained economic growth, we are no happier. Growth not only fails to make people contented, it destroys many of the things that do bring contentment by weakening social cohesion.4 Thus a hallmark of Western market economies is that it promotes individualism while weakening social relationships. Globalisation is helping export this economic …

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