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Teaching manners and values

Javanese culture values virtues that contribute to harmonious social integration. Ideal human virtues include obedience to superiors (manut), generosity, avoidance of conflict, understanding of others, and empathy (Geertz 1961; Koentjaraningrat 1985; Magnis-Suseno 1988). The traditional Javanese view that all men are socially unequal is demonstrated in numerous aspects of social behaviour. Therefore, respectful behaviours are constantly instilled in Javanese children.

The permissiveness noted earlier towards children younger than five or six years is mainly to structure affairs so as to minimize the emergence of impulses disruptive of social life. The child is considered durung Jawa (not yet Javanese) or durung ngerti (does not yet understand) (Geertz 1961), so the use of force or punishment for incomprehensible mistakes is considered useless. Magnis-Suseno (1988) observed that parents rarely become angry with their small children.

Unacceptable behaviour is indirectly opposed by frightening the child with the bogey man, strangers, or dogs, which, according to MagnisSuseno (1988), also turns the child to the parents for emotional security. However, Koentjaraningrat (1985) noted that some Javanese peasants threaten their children with punishment, and even with a fit of anger. He agrees, however, that children's behaviour is generally controlled without punishment.

In contrast to the importance of punishment among the Yoruba, only 5 per cent of the Javanese mothers slapped or spanked their child while the observer was present, and only 10 per cent punished the child more than once a week. Geertz (1961) notes that as the child grows older, training for adulthood may involve discipline even physical punishment to instil "correct" behaviour. Older children in our data set were more likely to have been disciplined than the younger children.

Geertz (1961) illustrated the kind of permissiveness that the mother may display towards the child:

If a child wants to stay up late there is usually no objection from the parents, and at the shadow plays the children sit all night in front of the screen, watching and napping alternately. On ordinary evenings the mother will simply ask the child if he wants to go to sleep and will keep asking him until he says yes. There is rarely a battle of wills; there is no direct opposition ... If the child gets out of hand and the quiet methods do not work, the mother may frighten him with talk of the bogey man he will see if he does not shut his eyes. (Geertz 1961, 103)

Mothers are also generally very permissive or indulgent in treating children to snacks and other food on demand, and children are not usually expected to wait for food throughout the day (Geertz 1961; Tan et al. 1970). Only 26 per cent of the mothers in our sample replied that the child cannot snack any time he/she is hungry and must wait until meal time to be fed; 84 per cent of the children had consumed sweet and salty snacks - providing 1$ per cent of the total energy consumed. These snack products, or "Javanese junk food" (sweet cassava and glutinous rice products, salty commercially produced fried puffs and drinks) are generally low in micronutrients. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that children may consume so much of these high-calorie, low nutrient density snack foods between meals that more "nutritious" foods in the diet may be short-changed.

Young children have little opportunity to develop their own initiative and to be independent, according to Geertz, since they are heavily protected from frustration and danger. According to Koentjaraningrat, this remains true only until the child reaches about five years of age, after which he is free to play with his peers in the neighbourhood. By contrast, however, Megawangi, Sumarwan, and Hartoyo (1994) found that 94 per cent of Javanese parents want to have independent children.

As the child gets older, he gradually becomes inculcated with the Javanese concepts of self-control and obedience. He realizes that people around him are not responding as they used to, and they punish him when he does not obey. This transition, according to Geertz, has a significant impact:

The shift in the father's role from one of affection and warmth to one of distance and reserve, although it is only one step in the whole series of events by which the child learns the specific Javanese concepts of self-control and respect, is probably the most significant both because of the crucial place of the father in the child's emotional life and because this transition period occurs during the period of the oedipal crisis. But it would not have the impact it has if it were not presaged and followed up by other events in the child's life, or perhaps more important, if it were not for the meaningful context of Javanese ideas and values in which the whole transition is set. (Geertz 1961, 110)

In psychodynamic terms, protection from shock or frustration may delay or reduce the intensity of the child's individuation by preventing any sense of break in feelings of belonging to the gratifying family environment created by his parents and siblings. This pattern is related to what Bary, Child, and Bacon (1959) have observed through cross-cultural observations. Under the Javanese concept of obedience, which is typical of agricultural or pastoral societies, children are trained to be more compliant, obedient, and responsible than are children from hunting or fishing societies.

There is a little difference between peasant parents and the higher rank priyayi or noble families in terms of punishment (Koentjaraningrat 1985). The priyayi philosophy regarding the education of the children is Tut wuri andayani, which means "following from behind, constantly giving encouragement" (Koentjaraningrat 1985, 241). Therefore, children in priyayi families are more free to explore their own world, which according to Koentjaraningrat reflects early European or Dutch influences. But the child is actively guided to conform to socially acceptable behaviour. Unlike the father in traditional families, the father in the priyayi family also plays an active role in guiding his children, applying punishment more frequently. Physical punishment, however, is rarely used because Javanese children, according to Geertz, are markedly well behaved, obedient, quiet' and shy.

If a child does not behave according to the norm, attention from or contact with his brothers or sisters may be withdrawn, and he may not be spoken to (disatru). Playmates also satru or shun each other for several days. Regarding this matter, Geertz noted: "It is an excellent mechanism for the adjustment of hostility in a society that plays down violence and the expression of real feelings, since it allows for the avoidance of the outbreak of rage while still permitting significant expression of it" (Geertz 1961, 117-118). Physical fights between children are rare (Geertz 1961). Parents always maintain good relationships with their neighbours. They always punish their own children if they have a fight with other children in the neighbourhood, regardless of who is wrong. In this way, children prepare for later social interactions in which they must successfully conceal their anger.

Obedience is considered not only a useful quality in social interactions, but it is also considered more safe (Koentjaraningrat 1985). The act of giving in to other people with whom one is not familiar is considered safe, avoiding conflict. Obedience is widely praised in both peasant and priyayi values. A child is taught obedience by forcing a sense of apprehension of unpleasant consequences of an action, or wedi (afraid). The usual method used by parents, which according to Koentjaraningrat is unfortunate, is frightening children with threats of punishment at the hand of spirits or strangers. He further explains that this has stimulated the easy emergence of feelings of fear towards others. According to Geertz, the concept of wedi is taught before the concept of shaming is inculcated. Geertz also describes the way in which parents instill wedi by frightening the child. She once observed "the two-yearold, silent in fear that the strange visiting man will, as his mother had warned, bite him if he makes a noise ..." (Geertz 1961, 113). This feeling conveys Javanese adult norms in social interaction to feel wedi first when they deal with unfamiliar people. Not knowing whether they will harm, hurt, or shame him (Koentjaraningrat 1985), the Javanese waits and remains inactive until he is sure how the situation will develop.

In teaching self-control and respectful behaviour to Javanese children, parents emphasize the concept of isin or shaming. The parents always try to arouse feelings of shame towards bad behaviour that will be "noticed by people from the street" (Koentjaraningrat 1985, 242) The children should feel isin toward their superiors. Geertz found that as the result of the inculcation of isin, Javanese children can sit quietly and well behaved for hours on any public occasion. In the Javanese culture, to know when to feel isin is to know the "basic social properties of self-control and avoidance of disapproval" (Geertz 1961, 114).

As the child enters adolescence, the concept of sungkan (respectful politeness) (Geertz 1961), is gradually introduced. This feeling is addressed to a superior or an unfamiliar equal. Koentjaraningrat (1985) described it as "feeling awkward" towards a superior or someone whom he respects. They will act timidly in their social interactions, trying not to bother their superiors. According to Geertz, the concept of sungkan is basic for the Javanese "to be able to perform the social minuet with grace" (Geertz 1961, 114).

The teaching of wedi, isin, and sungkan is considered prerequisite for adopting the basic elements of human virtue. As mentioned earlier, obedience, generosity, avoidance of conflict, understanding others, and empathy are basic values for the Javanese in their relationships, reflected in their emphasis on the interconnection of fellow humans. This value obliges the Javanese to conform to the community in their social interactions.

In our data from Central Java, a breakdown in the teaching or enforcing of this self-control or respectful behaviour may be accompanied, among children, by significantly lower nutrient intake and, to a lesser extent, a shorter stature. A modified HOME subscale from our study apparently captured an acceptance, on the part of lowerclass parents, of culturally inappropriate behaviours from their children. These behaviours - hitting parents or expressing negative feelings - are generally inappropriate for Javanese children. Koentjaraningrat (1985) also noted that, among the lower class and rural peasant families, there was permissiveness or delinquency in teaching this respect behaviour - possibly linked with poverty and the migration to the towns in search of work due to land pressures. These poorer children also were taught more self-reliance and greater responsibility; in fact, "one has the impression that the development of more self-reliance and self-responsibility is still neglected among families who can afford a prosperous and comfortable life" (Koentjaraningrat 1985). These observations were consistent with our correlation analysis - the "acceptance of inappropriate behaviours" factor was negatively correlated with the household's expenses, home sanitation, membership of community organizations, home safety, and learning stimulation subscale.

Social implications of the javanese value system

The Javanese values of respect and the maintenance of social harmony (rukun) are basic principles of normative and moral guidance for social interaction within both the family and the community. The attitude of respect, described before by Geertz and Koentjaraningrat, is based on the lineal value orientation in social relationships. This respect also is reflected in Javanese social behaviour in other contexts, such as the workplace, schools, and political organizations. The strong emphasis on rukun (social harmony) has marked the typical Javanese as inexpressive, avoiding social and personal conflict. Geertz noted that to the Javanese " ... emotional equilibrium, emotional stasis, is of highest worth, and on the corresponding moral imperative to control one's impulses, to keep them out of awareness or at least unexpressed, so as not to set up reverberating emotional responses in others" (Geertz 1961,147).

All of these values colour Javanese society. These ideals also are reflected in the national Indonesian state ideology, Pancasila, which stresses mutual help, mutual understanding, and tolerance as important principles in human relations and Indonesian society. The President of Indonesia, Suharto, who is Javanese, made a presidential decree to launch an intensive and pervasive educational programme on Pancasila ideology to introduce it to schoolchildren, university students, and various groups of employers and employees.

We have seen how the family, as the first place for children to learn models for social relationships, works in preparing children to act as full members of Javanese society. Socialization within the family has implications that permeate both individual personality and the entire social system. The moral components of familial institutions are internalized by the child during the earliest years and are significant forces motivating the child's behaviour later in adulthood (Geertz 1961).

Koentjaraningrat (1985), however, hypothesized that to the extent that the concept of respect and social harmony are achieved in day-to-day life, they entail a certain "cost." The great reliance on, and respect for, seniors and superiors in the civil servant class (priyayi) can diminish the sense of selfreliance. Obedience to superiors can prove detrimental to the mentality of civil servants, leading to an unwillingness to take risks because they do not feel safe in acting without the support of other people with whom they can share the responsibility (Koentjaraningrat 1985). Such weaknesses are sometimes regarded as unfortunate by-products of a strong culture, rather than as singular attitudes to be eliminated (Hull 1986).

The organizational structure of the government corresponds to these cultural values. In general, there is a strong centralistic tendency in some government programming. The local administrators' task is only to implement centrally designed packages that contain detailed activities and a budget. This presentation of the task leaves little opportunity for creativity, and can create an attitude of passive implementation among the local managers. Given the lineal value orientation, they feel comfortable with this kind of central structure. The impressive achievements of the immunization programme, for example, are partly due to adhering to norms for obedience and respect. President Suharto once was photographed while administering a polio vaccine to an infant. A poster of this was widely distributed to gain the support and involvement of provincial governors and local leaders. Because of this poster, the provincial governors have become involved, with good coordination between the governors and local heads being key features of the programme's success.

The strong passive tendency among Javanese civil servants relates to Geertz's description of the enculturation process within the family. Before children can comprehend the concept of "respect" and "the maintenance of social harmony," the psychological groundwork is laid. These values presuppose an ability to control any expressive behaviour, and to choose inaction rather than action. Constant protection from any unpleasant shock, and hence from exploration during infancy, may serve to build a passive attitude. Passivity also is encouraged through teaching polite behaviour. Children are actively supervised and repetitively advised to adopt proper behaviour or be frightened by threats of strangers and bogey men. Mothers also discourage children from any spontaneous behaviour and teach them to be sensitive to any subtle reactions of other people.

In contrast, Rohner (1975) described treatment of the Papago children (one of the American Indian tribes), who are treated with support, affection, warmth, and comfort by their elders. He found that these children made few "dependency bids" because their needs for affection had been met. When they were older, they became more self-reliant and independent and left their compounds for wages for extended periods of time. A similar style exists in the Javanese peasantry. As Jay (1969) observed, Javanese children exhibit industriousness by imitating adults' work, which is thus praised and rewarded by their parents. Although self-reliance has not been mentioned as a typical Javanese attitude by authors we reviewed, we can argue that Javanese children have a certain degree of independence. As available land in Java becomes more scarce, the Javanese youth frequently leave the village to work for wages or to engage in informal sector jobs, activities that require a certain degree of self-reliance and independence.

Geertz also noted some undesirable features of Javanese life resulting from their adherence to norms for respect and external social harmony. Since expressions of open hostility or direct opposition are not socially acceptable, the only way to deal with such situations is through evasion, covert disobedience, and mutual avoidance. This behaviour pattern is often difficult for other ethnic groups working with the Javanese. A personal communication conducted with an Indonesian anthropologist (anonymous 1991) who is not Javanese stated that one should be overly cautious when Javanese say "yes" because "yes" may mean yes, no, or maybe. "If you are not sensitive enough, a Javanese would avoid you."

Challenges for transition

As described earlier, values of respect and obedience still are preserved in the higher priyayi class of society, although they are diminishing in peasant society. Because lower-class persons are more likely to engage in informal sector employment, they do not necessarily rely on superiors; nevertheless, they maintain these values within the family and kin group (Koentjaraningrat 1985).

The changing attitudes towards obedience in peasant societies is in accord with theories proposed by LeVine (1974) that suggest that obedience is a particularly valued trait in a child in agricultural economies because it is necessary for economic survival as an adult. According to LeVine, obedience becomes more important in traditional agricultural societies when economic survival is in greatest jeopardy. Reduced land availability and increasing reliance on commercial activity require that the Javanese peasant moves towards less respectful behaviour and more autonomy.

However, these trends appear to be manifested unevenly in the different social strata in Java. While the priyayi class shows other characteristics considered typical of modern parenting, such as greater emotional closeness between father and child, high levels of obedience and hierarchical respect are, nevertheless, maintained. This pattern is inconsistent with the generalizations reported in chapter 4 on the effects of middle-class status and modernization on parenting practices. As discussed in chapter 4, Kohn (1969) and other researchers have found that obedience and following the rules were highly valued in parents with blue-collar or traditional occupations, whereas independence and initiative were believed to pay off by professional and managerial parents. Hoffman's findings (Hoffman 1988) in the United States, Turkey, and Singapore supported Kohn's hypothesis. However, he found that the percentage of fathers endorsing the child's obedience in the highest social stratum was 50 per cent in Indonesia and 63 per cent in the Philippines, while in the other countries the percentage was less than 20 per cent in the same social class.

Comparing social strata within each country figure in Hoffman's study (Hoffman 1988), the same trend was observed as in Kohn's (Kohn 1969) and LeVine's (LeVine 1963) findings (except for the Philippines): the higher the social stratum, the more likely were the fathers not to expect a child's obedience. Looking at the data for mothers in Indonesia, however, the opposite trend was observed, in which the expectation of a child's obedience in the highest class category was very high overall and marginally higher (79.3 per cent) than in the lowest social stratum (73.7 per cent). This suggests either the persistence of pre-modern values in the two social classes or that Javanese women, in the process of modernization, are more resistant than the men to changing their culturally embedded behaviour. Since our literature review shows that mothers are closer than men to their children, the modernization process may not affect the child-rearing strategy in high-class families, at least in the near future.

Hoffman (1988) has theorized that the endorsement of obedience relates to the subsistence level of a country. Using cross-national samples (Indonesia, Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and the United States), he found that obedience is stressed most in agricultural countries where subsistence resources are scarce. He used per capita energy supply and per capita protein supply to measure subsistence level. Indonesia now has reached beyond the subsistence level in terms of rice production: socioeconomic figures indicate rapid improvements, and Indonesia has been ranked by the World Bank (1983) as a middle-income, oil-producing country. Indonesians (e.g. the Javanese) are, indeed, rapidly entering the mainstream of contemporary civilization, yet the traditional value orientation is still preserved by the higher-class society. Koentjaraningrat (1985) may be right in proposing a hypothesis: "... whenever a culture or subculture in a particular class of the society concerned has an established ancient tradition and therefore a vested interest in protecting the great tradition, it will show greater resistance towards change than cultures or subcultures with few such traditions" (Koentjaraningrat 1985, 462). This is, in fact, the same argument made by Barnlund (1989, 161-171) in explaining why Japanese culture succeeds in maintaining respectful behaviour while North American culture does not. This hypothesis, however, needs to be supported by more extensive research.

Another, simpler, hypothesis regarding the relationship between respect and physical punishment also should be examined. Modernization reduces the use of physical punishment in favour of verbal explanation. Where physical punishment has been used to maintain respect, formality, and distance between parents and children, its removal may lessen respectful behaviour. In a culture such as the Javanese, however, where physical punishment is nonexistent and respectful behaviour historically has been taught verbally and modelled through concepts of shyness, fear, and shame, there may be less cause for the erosion of respect.

Javanese parents appear to be highly adaptive in terms of the survival, health, and economic capacities of children. Javanese parents tend to be very responsive to new ideas in child care, as demonstrated by the widespread use of growth monitoring and the popularity of a new tool for child-development assessment and parent teaching, introduced into the posyandu (Satoto and Colletta 1987). At the macro-level are increased primary school enrolment, decline in infant mortality, impressive immunization coverage, and a decline in the fertility rate (UNICEF and the Government of Indonesia 1988).

From a historical point of view, in Javanese society maternal attention during the child's vulnerable period agrees with LeVine's theory (LeVine 1988) that the optimal parental strategy for an agrarian society is high fertility with maximization of the number of surviving children. This is because the agrarian subsistence economy seems to rely on child labour. The goal of high fertility was historically difficult to achieve, given the high infant mortality rate. The period of exclusive maternal attention, which also includes breastfeeding and co-sleeping, is a way to provide confidence in the child's survival. The practice of high physical nurturance and protection before the child is weaned is still prevalent in Javanese culture, even if the infant mortality rate (IMR) has declined. (The official IMR reported by the Indonesian Government is 56 [D. Dapice 1991, personal communication). This custom, which appeared to be positively adaptive to past conditions, also seems to adapt to current conditions. It may be that Javanese infant care cannot be fully explained in terms of requirements for infant survival. The Javanese emphasis on social and emotional ties and sharing also may shape the Javanese infant care system.

LeVine et al. (1991) take a new, more detailed, view of the precise mechanism through which female education influences mother-child interactions in their analysis of data from Mexico, as described in chapter 2. In our opinion, a similarly sensitive approach to the examination of specific pathways will lead to the understanding of family and parenting changes with socio-economic development in Java, where soothing behaviour may continue to coexist with high levels of conversational interaction between mother and infant and may actually be used to sustain in the infant a high level of attention to cognitive stimulation by the mother.

As Geertz noted, soothing and overprotecting infants, and inculcation of self-control after the age of five, are necessary ways in which the family enculturates the concepts of "respect," "obedience," and "maintenance of social harmony." The infant care pattern prepares a child for harmonious social relationships within the community that continue through adulthood. Perhaps this kind of parenting strategy is parallel to a nineteenth-century American Calvinist doctrine in child-raising. Sunley (1955) studied several magazines that were published between 1832 and 1876 (Mother's Magazine, Mother's Assistance, and Parents' Magazine), and noted that the doctrine showed the parents how to train obedience in children by "break[ing] the will" of the children, because complete submission was requisite if the child was to be protected from sin and evil. In the first three months of life, or even for the first year, infants should be tenderly cared for and their wishes granted. (For the Javanese children this lasts until the child has reached the age of five). However, after that, one should "Establish your will, as the law ... this would keep the child from experiencing all those conflicts of feeling of those doubtful as to their guide" (Sunley 1955, 160). This is similar to introducing self-control in Javanese children.

Given the Javanese and Japanese examples, we cannot totally accept the Western idea of independence as the best solution for facing "the new information-based society." We are apprehensive of the links that can be made between independence and the family's isolation from friends and neighbours. Garbarino (1982) noted that domestic violence and neglect are indications of excessive stresses and strains associated with family isolation. Therefore, interventions to change maternal treatment of young children in Javanese culture (from high physical nurturance to independence) may not guarantee better results and could result in collapse of the long-standing social equilibrium. Koentjaraningrat (1985) indicates that self-reliance and independence cannot go hand in hand with the value of "mutual help" (gotong royong) and "mutual understanding" in the social relationships.

The need for more self-reliance and greater self-responsibility is, of course, a consequence of the general decline of the gotong-royong value. The national Indonesian state ideology, the Pancasila, on the other hand, capitalizes on the gotong royong ideal and stresses common endeavor, mutual help, mutual understanding, and tolerance as important principles in human relations and national life, and the insistence from above on maintaining these values will probably put restrictions on the development of a liberal individualistic outlook among most Indonesians in general and the Javanese in particular. (Koentjaraningrat 1985, 461)

None the less, the existence of these seemingly contradictory values of self-reliance and mutual help is not supported by ample empirical evidence. In contrast, cross-cultural studies show that strong feelings of mutual responsibility uniting members of extended kinsmen (e.g. in Papago [Rohner 1975], and in Fiji [West 1988]) coexisted with encouragement of self-reliance. In addition, despite migration, interconnectedness between kinsmen was still maintained. The Javanese emphasis on social bonds, introduced to children at an early age, does not separate self-reliance from social bonding. Jay's report (Jay 1969) indicates that children are encouraged but not pressured into doing adults' work. It seems that Javanese nurturing activities are well adapted to social expectations.

If we link the Javanese infant care system with the rejection-acceptance theory described by Rohner (1975), the Javanese children would be categorized as "accepted" children. Rohner defined "accepted" children as those who are loved, protected, and given full children's rights, resulting in positive personality functioning. In his cultural studies, he notes that:

The rejection-acceptance theory ... predicted that rejected children and adults the world over will be, in comparison to accepted persons, more hostile and aggressive or passive-aggressive (or have more problems with the management of hostility and aggression), will be more dependent, evaluate themselves more negatively, will be less emotionally responsive, less emotionally stable, and will have a more negative view. (Rohner 1975,159)

Therefore, encouragement of self-reliance in children should not be at the expense of social bonding.

The increase in materialism may change parent-child relationships. One example is a move in language patterns towards less formally polite speech (Sosrodihardjo 1972). However, this change process may have been slowed down by the mixed feelings that many Indonesians have toward modernization (Hull 1986). Hull concluded that:

In Indonesia two terms which are often used interchangeably are cara modern (modern ways) and tingkat Internasional (international standard), both of which imply that the essential characteristic of modern goods is that they are imported. Moreover, while the goods - jeans, cars, plastic buckets are manufactured in Asia, the technologies are largely derived from Western industrial societies. In Indonesian thinking, then, modernization is sometimes regarded as synonymous to Westernization. Understandably, in a nation which fought to rid itself of Western colonialism, modernity is regarded with mixed emotions. On the one hand modern material life is pleasurable, convenient and comfortable; on the other, the goods are symbolic of a form of neocolonial domination and loss of hard-won independence. (Hull 1986,199)


1. "Unity in Diversity" is the major theme of the efforts of national integration in Indonesia. Therefore, any activities that lead toward the divisiveness of ethnic identity in Indonesia are prohibited.

2. Wolfe (1988) referred to a study conducted by Kung (1983).

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