Factors in the development of culture

Diversity exists within any cultural group. Not everyone from the same culture behaves and thinks in the same way. There are differences within the same cultural group due to:

  • the subculture or subgroup the person belongs to
  • the person’s unique experience
  • personal or individual factors.

An individual's culture may be formed through the shared and learned social norms, values, behaviours, laws and social rules of their host culture, the influence of subcultures within their society based on shared characteristics such as religion, social class, special needs or sexuality, and their individual factors such as gender, education, experience and age

Internal and external factors

Many factors determine specific values or behaviours of a person’s family or social group, and contribute to the development of their culture.

Internal factors External factors

Values and beliefs ─ provide guidance to our attitudes, perceptions and judgement

Norms ─ provide guidelines towards culturally acceptable behaviour or expected behaviour

Thinking style ─ how information is processed

Problem-solving style – problem analysis and identifying solutions

Family loyalties and responsibilities

Art and craft

Customs ─ dressing style, forms of address and relating to others

Dietary habits

Law system ─ social rules, standards and regulations

Communication style ─ language, non-verbal communication and interpretation of meaning

Family structure ─ kinship and role expectations

(modified from Marsella and Westermeyer 1993)

Specific behaviours

The statements below are examples of how you might describe specific behaviours that are typical of your culture:


My friends greet each other with ‘Hey bro!’

I am in the army and always have to salute an officer and address the officer as ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’.

My family is Italian and when we meet, we kiss each other on both cheeks regardless of gender!

Our footy team give ‘hi-fives’ when we score a goal or win the game!

Celebrations and religious observances

In my family we celebrate Thanksgiving as well as Christmas, New Year and Easter. Australians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving but for Americans like me, it is a very important celebration.

We Australians and our New Zealand neighbours celebrate ANZAC Day to commemorate the fallen in wars. This is a very significant occasion for us.

Values and norms

In my family we always give to charities ─ it’s the right thing to do.

Although it is acceptable to Australians, we don’t think young women should have boyfriends. I would feel shame if our daughter went out alone with a man.

Some kids at school take risks with drugs and cars, but none of my mates are into that. We all think it’s stupid to throw away your life.


Formation of culture: Examine the internal and external factors that shape an individual’s culture.

Section 1 activities (Word Document 68KB)

A multicultural society

In 1995, the Office of Multicultural Affairs published the following definition of ‘multicultural’:

The term ‘multicultural’ is used in Australia to describe the cultural and ethnic diversity of our contemporary society.

The multicultural policy manages the consequences of cultural diversity in the interests of the individual and society as a whole. There are three dimensions to the policy, including cultural identity, social justice and economic efficiency.

Cultural identity: The right of all Australians to express and share their individual cultural heritage, including their language and religion.

Social justice: The right of all Australians to equality of treatment and opportunity, and the removal of barriers regarding race, ethnicity, culture, religion, language, gender or place of birth.

Economic efficiency: The need to maintain, develop and effectively utilise the skills and talents of all Australians, regardless of background.

Limits to multiculturalism

All Australians should have a commitment to Australia’s interests and future.

All Australians must accept the basic structures and principles of Australian society ─ the Constitution and the rule of law, tolerance and equality, parliamentary democracy, freedom of speech and religion, English as the national language and equality of the sexes.

The right to express one’s own culture and beliefs as well as accepting the right of others to express their views and values.
(Lindon 1996)

For example, Australian law can differ from cultural laws and in many domestic, family and other social situations will override cultural practice.


Universal declaration of human rights

Read the Universal declaration and reflect on Australia’s approach to human rights in Australia, how this is reflected in our laws, and how different the experience might be for people from other countries.

Last modified: Wednesday, 5 December 2018, 4:24 PM