Parenting in Malaysia topic of international conference

By Dave Kirkpatrick

Malaysia’s need for education in parenting skills and nutrition were topics presented by NIU Associate Professor Helen Winsor at the International Conference of Home Economists.

“Typically, in the past, the raising of children in Malaysia was done not only by the parents themselves, but by an extended family that consisted of relatives and members of the neighboring compound,” Winsor said. “Grandmothers would very often assist in the raising of the child and any information needed by the parents would almost always come from the grandmother.

“Now, however, with more and more Malaysians moving from rural to urban areas, the parents are forced to make a transition from the extended family to a more Americanized style of child raising,” Winsor added. “The United States made the same transition 50 to 100 years ago.”

Winsor said this information appeared in one of two papers she drafted for presentation to those at the conference, titled “Traditional Versus Emerging Resources in Parenting Education in Malaysia.”

An associate professor of human and family resources, Winsor was one of 250 presenters chosen to speak from a field of 2,500 researchers who submitted papers to the members present at the conference, said Diane Strand, NIU assistant director of public information.

The conference, which took place for only the second time in the United States, was held at the University of Minnesota. It was attended by more than 1,300 home economists from 74 nations, Strand said.

She said the group addressed the problems of various economies ranging from hunger and malnutrition in developing countries to obesity, hypertension and heart disease in affluent countries.

Winsor said that, unfortunately, no formal educational program exists in Malaysia to help young people understand personal parenting because of the heavy traditional reliance on the extended family.

Winsor studied 180 unmarried Malaysian students at NIU, who represented the normal ethnic and gender population of Malaysia.

Two Malaysian graduate students who assisted Winsor in her research have since returned to Malaysia where they hope to implement educational programs for personal parenting.

In addition to the problems facing personal parenting in Malaysia, Winsor also addressed the attendants about the need for nutritional education there.

Malaysia is now at the crossroads of its journey to becoming a nutritionally-developed country, Winsor said. “The problems they’re (Malaysian natives) facing now are ‘how can we have a consistent food supply, clean water and still preserve our environment?’

“Right now Malaysia is in between the developed and the underdeveloped countries as far as nutrition goes,” Winsor added. “They need the knowledge as to what kinds of foods to grow that provide adequate nourishment to the body.

“They have enough land to grow food due to the fact that they have learned to manage their resources without putting any of them in danger,” she said. “They have learned to redistribute their resources so that they can preserve their rain forest and still help people relocate that may have been displaced from their homes due to this redistribution.

“Great strides have been made to manage population and resources in Malaysia. They are preserving their environment and doing a marvelous job at it,” Winsor said.