Culture and Brain

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 212–238 | Cite as

Respect and fear: Socialization of children’s fear among the Mapuche people of Chile

  • Dejah OertwigEmail author
  • Enrique H. Riquelme
  • Amy G. Halberstadt
Original Research Article


Classic theories of emotion describe fear as evolutionary based, rooted in survival needs, and universally experienced. As such, fear has been thought to be less socially constructed than most emotions. It may be, however, that cultural beliefs have more influence than previously considered. To understand cultural beliefs in general, we interviewed 22 of the Mapuche people, one of the native people of southern Chile. Today, despite the War of “pacification” and subsequent Westernized schooling and religion, the Mapuche people maintain cultural knowledge and connection with the land. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 17 adults (5 elders, 12 mothers) and, using grounded theory practices, coded for themes. We found substantial evidence regarding the cultural causes of fear, perceptions of utility of fear, and the transformation of fear through socialization. We then crosschecked emergent themes, including the importance of respect as a foundational principle and goal, with five new participants. Our findings suggest a deep, abiding respect for the land, spirits of nature, and people; a devaluing of the emotion of fear; a gentle socialization process away from fear; and the transformative role of respect in attenuating fear. Given the novelty of these findings, confirmation of results via additional sampling or triangulating of methodologies is warranted.


Respect Fear Culture Qualitative Emotion Nature Mapuche 



This research was supported by the FONDECYT #11140311 and 1195916, Educación familiar y escolar: socialización emocional en contextos de diversidad social y cultural awarded to Riquelme. Special thanks to our interviewers: Anita Ñanculef, María Luisa Nahuelpan and Yulia Chentsova; and Anita Adams, Sydney Brabble, Anna Gross, Meghana Mettu, John Kihm for their effort and continued support in preparation of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Universidad Católica de Temuco, Facultad de EducaciónTemucoChile

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