Lifelearner Network Rotating Header Image



According to folk belief, what is the cause of aging? Why do people get old? What happens to the soul as the body ages?

What is the average life expectancy? What is the attitude toward old age? What age is considered “old”? Are the elderly honored? Are they considered wise? Are they considered burdensome?

What living arrangement options are there for the elderly? What responsibility is taken by the members of the family? Who makes the decisions concerning their living arrangements? Are there nursing homes or retirement centers available as options? Are these government run or private institutions? How are they financed? What happens to old people who are childless, who have no relatives nearby, or are financially destitute?

What responsibilities do the elderly have in family life? in village life? at festivities or ceremonies?


When is a child considered to be a real person (from birth? by some physical change? by attaining a certain age? at a naming ceremony?) How does a child get its name? Why is a certain name chosen?

When and how is the child weaned? What happens if the mother’s milk is insufficient? Are there wet- nurses? What relationship does a wet-nurse then hold in the family? to the child? How does the child receive toilet training? By whom? At what age is this begun? At what age do children of either sex habitually wear lower garments?

Are children generally treated well? How is love shown to a child (by the father, by the mother, by siblings, by the grandparents or other relatives)? How are children instructed in the society’s customs and history? Is this done as a situation presents itself, or is a specific program followed? How can a child be protected from illness and injury?

How are children taught proper behavior? Are they told frightening stories to encourage good behavior? or are heroes held up as models to follow? How may they be punished? Are girls punished differently than boys?

Are children of either gender treated preferentially? If so, how and at what age does it begin? At what age are girls treated differently than boys? Are there different expectations for behavior in boys and girls? What qualities of character are considered desirable for each?

With whom does the child have the closest relationship? Does this change as the child gets older? Who seems to love the child most? Who helps care for young children?

At what age are children expected to begin doing chores? What type and are these gender- specific? When are they expected to take part in religious observances and rituals?


Are there local midwives? Are they trained? If not, how do they get their knowledge? Are they contracted beforehand to be on hand for the delivery? How much do they get paid for a successful delivery? for an unsuccessful one? How long after the delivery do they care for the mother? What are their services? What must the mother do after childbirth?

Where and how is the baby delivered? Who may be present? Who is in charge of the event? Who cuts the cord? How? What is done with the afterbirth? What must be done for the child physically and ritually? Who does this?

What is the father’s role before, during, and after the birth? At what point does he see the baby? Who announces the birth to the rest of the family? to the community? How is this done?

What is the meaning attached to events occurring at the birth of a child (guests present, cord around the baby’s neck, etc.)? What is done in the case of twins? What practices and beliefs are associated with death in childbirth?

Is the birth of a child, whether boy or girl, a time of rejoicing? Are gifts given in either case? To whom?

What religious or folk customs are observed at birth, as baptisms, charms, circumcision, etc.?


Note: For all Life Cycle assignments, be sure to ask a number of people for their stories, opinions, and experiences. Each individual will perceive these in a different way depending on what their ethnic background is, what their own experience has been, and what the local belief is.

According to local people, how does a woman become pregnant? How soon is a woman expected to become pregnant after marriage? What are the attitudes toward barrenness? What are some of the reasons given for barrenness? What recourse does the family, the couple, or the woman have for treatment? Is barrenness a reason for divorce?

Do the spirits play any role in conception? What rituals are practiced to ensure pregnancy? Are these done by a religious practitioner? by a designated woman? someone in the family?

What taboos must a pregnant woman observe? What will happen if the taboos are broken? What kinds of pressure is given by whom to ensure the taboos will be observed? How does the younger generation feel about the taboos? Ask a variety of women about these. Different families also can have different myths, tales, and experiences along these lines.

Are there dietary restrictions for the woman? What type of traditional prenatal care is given? Is there any remedy for morning sickness? Are steps taken to determine the sex of the baby before it is born? Which sex is preferred? Why?

What preparations are made for the arrival of the new-born (clothing, cradle, nursery, etc.)? If none are made, try to find out the reason why. If preparations are made, who does them (friends, certain members of the family, relatives near and far, baby showers, etc.)? What things are considered necessary for the first weeks of the child’s life (a supply of diapers, a pacifier, charms or other objects under the pillow, certain herbs around the bed, etc.)

Is contraception practiced? What types of contraceptives, traditional or modern, are there? Are they readily available? How is the practice viewed by the older generation? by the younger generation?

Is abortion practiced? Under what circumstances? What is the society’s attitude toward it?

What is the cause and frequency of miscarriages? What cures are sought to prevent miscarriages? What is done with the fetus? Is it given a proper burial or disposed of in some other way? When does the fetus receive its soul? Where does the soul come from?


Do people plant gardens (or herbs in pots near their houses) in addition to their field crops? Are the gardens near home, near the fields (or in both places), or in a different location altogether? Are there public gardens near apartment buildings where people may plant? How are the gardens or herb pots protected from animals or people?

What types of things are planted in gardens? Note the relative amount of each. Is the garden produce grown only for family consumption and enjoyment or is some sold or traded? Are the same things planted each year, or does the mix vary from year to year?

What types of plants are gathered to supplement the diet? Where do people go to gather these plants? Note the time of year each can be gathered. Are there special tools used in the gathering process? How is the harvest prepared for consumption? Do the people find the gathered plants tasty or do they eat them from necessity?

What non-edible plants are gathered? What are they used for? How are they gathered and processed?

How much time is taken in gardening? in gathering?

What other substances are used as dietary supplements? Vitamin pills? Herbs? How often are these taken? Where are they available?


What understanding and attitudes do people seem to have concerning the cause and prevention of illness?

  • What is their attitude toward the maimed, deformed, and mentally ill?
  • What is the relation between sickness and the spirit world?

What steps do people take to avoid sickness and disease?

  • What type of personal and household cleanliness do they observe?
  • Are these traditional, or learned from other sources?
  • What religious steps are taken to avert or cure sickness?

What are the local remedies for aches and pains, lice and skin conditions, intestinal upsets, major illness, etc.?

What local plants, herbs, teas, or other substances are used in treating health problems?

Where are prescription and non-prescription medications available?

Is there a fresh water supply, and what measures are taken to keep it uncontaminated?

  • Are there toilet facilities? Where are they located?
  • Are any measures taken to control pests and insects?

To what types of medical practitioners do they resort, how soon after the onset of the complaint, and what fees do they pay?

  • Are doctors or clinics accessible to the general public?
  • How is an appointment made and how are services paid for?
  • Do medical practitioners make home visits or does the patient have to go to their clinic/office?

Are some villagers considered to be healers, either through the compounding of local materials or through contact with the spirit world? If there are such people, they may be very reluctant to share their secrets.

404 Not Found

404 Not Found