Disputes in Everyday Life: Social and Moral Orders of Children and Young People: Volume 15


Table of contents

(24 chapters)

Disputes in everyday life – Social and moral orders of children and young people has papers written by researchers whose interests lie in studying children's everyday interactions, with a balance of papers from emerging and well-established researchers in this field. The volume draws on scholarship from Australia, England, New Zealand, Sweden, Turkey, United States of America (USA), and Wales, investigating everyday practices of children's disputes in Australia, England, Italy, Sweden, USA, and Wales. The papers themselves speak to the theme of the volume, so we only briefly summarize their contents.

Purpose – This chapter explicates the categorical resources and practices used in some disputes involving two children.

Methodology – The data on which the study is based consists of a transcript of an audio recording of the naturally occurring talk-in-interaction during a family meal. This data is analyzed using the approach of membership categorization analysis (MCA).

Findings – We show that it is neither the category collection “children” nor the category collection “siblings” that is relevant for the organization of these disputes but rather a number of asymmetrical standardized relational pairs, such as “rule-enforcer” and “offender” or “offender” and “victim.” It is these pairs of categories that are demonstrably relevant for the members, providing for and making intelligible their disputes. We then consider the question of the demonstrably relevant “wider context” of the disputes to which the disputants are actually oriented. This wider context is an omnirelevant oppositional social relationship between the children. We demonstrate that the disputes reflexively constitute the character of their oppositional relationship and show how these are instantiations of an omnirelevant category collection, namely, “parties to an oppositional relationship.”

Value of chapter – This chapter contributes to the corpus of ethnomethodological studies on children's culture in action and more particularly on the categorical organization of children's (and others’) disputes. It also contributes to MCA more generally in respect to its focus on the issues of omnirelevance and the “occasionality” of category collections.

Purpose – The overall aim of the chapter is to explore how disputes between family members are accomplished and how the actions of copresent members (the mother and elder brother) contribute to the unfolding dispute.

Methodology – Selected from video recordings of the family breakfast, three extended sequences of mealtime talk were transcribed using the Jeffersonian system and analyzed using the analytic resources of conversation analysis and ethnomethodology.

Findings – This analysis establishes how both the mother and elder sibling intervene in matters to do with who has access to some bookclub brochures. Appeals to rules such as “you’ve got to share” are used by the mother to manage the local issue of the dispute. In intervening to resolve and settle disputes, the mother makes visible particular moral orders, such as sharing. Intervention is accomplished through directions, increasing physical proximity to the dispute, topic shift, and physical intervention in the dispute, such as gently removing a child's hand from the brochures. Justifications for sharing proffered by the mother that work to establish an alignment with one child are challenged by the other sibling, thus contributing to an escalation of the dispute. Also explicated is how an older sibling buys into the dispute, making visible his view about how sharing is accomplished; that is, you “just cope with it.”

Practical implications – This chapter has some practical implications for adults who interact with children (teachers, parents) highlighting that in some way, adults, through their actions may contribute to the continuation of a dispute and second, how adult attempts to settle or end a dispute may result only in a temporary settlement rather than a cessation of the dispute.

Value of chapter – The chapter contributes understandings about how family members manage disputes interactionally and how social and moral orders are accomplished during family mealtime. Additionally, it shows how some disputes are temporarily settled and connected across a section of action rather than ended.

Purpose – This chapter examines children's options for responding to parental attempts to get them to do something (directives).

Methodology/approach – The data for the study are video recordings of everyday family mealtime interactions. The study uses conversation analysis and discursive psychology to conduct a microanalysis of sequences of everyday family mealtimes interactions in which a parent issues a directive and a child responds.

Findings – It is very difficult for children to resist parental directives without initiating a dispute. Immediate embodied compliance was the interactionally preferred response option to a directive. Outright resistance was typically met with an upgraded and more forceful directive. Legitimate objections to compliance could be treated seriously but were not always taken as grounds for non-compliance.

Research implications – The results have implications for our understandings of the notions of compliance and authority. Children's status in interaction is also discussed in light of their ability to choose whether to ratify a parent's control attempt or not.

Originality/value of chapter – The chapter represents original work on the interactional structures and practices involved in responding to control attempts by a co-present participant. It offers a data-driven framework for conceptualising compliance and authority in interaction that is based on the orientations of participants rather than cultural or analytical assumptions of the researcher.

Purpose – This chapter examines an episode of pretend play amongst a group of young girls in an elementary school in Australia, highlighting how they interact within the membership categorization device ‘family’ to manage their social and power relationships.

Approach – Using conversation analysis and membership categorization analysis, an episode of video-recorded interaction that occurs amongst a group of four young girls is analyzed.

Findings – As disputes arise amongst the girls, the mother category is produced as authoritative through authoritative actions by the girl in the category of mother, and displays of subordination on the part of the other children, in the categories of sister, dog and cat.

Value of paper – Examining play as a social practice provides insight into the social worlds of children. The analysis shows how the children draw upon and co-construct family-style relationships in a pretend play context, in ways that enable them to build and organize peer interaction. Authority is highlighted as a joint accomplishment that is part of the social and moral order continuously being negotiated by the children. The authority of the mother category is produced and oriented to as a means of managing the disputes within the pretend frame of play.

Purposes – The overall aim of the chapter is to explore children's acting and disputing within a family role-play and highlight how different roles are argued upon and negotiated by the participants, both verbally and nonverbally.

Methodology – The chapter is drawn from a single play episode between five 6-year-old girls at a Swedish preschool. The analytical framework of the study is influenced by ethnomethodological work on social action focusing in particular on participants’ methodical ways of accomplishing and making sense of social activities.

Findings – The analyses show that the girls use a range of verbal and nonverbal resources to argue and accomplish the social order of the play (i) using past tense to display the factual past event status, and present tense to bid for upcoming events, (ii) building a mutual pretend understanding of places and objects that were used to configure nearness as well as distance in the girls’ interaction and relationship. Finally, the analyses clearly show that the significance of a pretend role is situated and depends on the social context in which it is negotiated.

Practical implications – To get acquainted with detailed analyses of children's pretend play can be useful for preschool teachers’ understanding of how children build relationships within the play, and hopefully awaken their interest to study children's play in depth in everyday practice.

Value of chapter – The present chapter contributes to a wider understanding of how social relationships are argued and negotiated by preschool girls within pretend family role-play.

Approach – A handful of studies in ethnomethodology have targeted the conflicts of young members of society (Butler, 2008; Church, 2009; Danby & Baker, 1998a; Maynard, 1985a; Theobald & Danby, 2012, in press). Two occasionally overlapping strands of inquiry may be identified in this research: studies with an interest in charting the local organization of dispute exchanges and those seeking to highlight the socializing aspects of dispute procedures.

Purpose – This chapter examines a single feature of everyday exchanges taking place in a correctional facility for male youth. It investigates the ways through which certain membership category collections (such as ‘gender’ or ‘stage-of-life’) are drawn upon to instigate (Goodwin, M. H. (1982). ‘Instigating’: Storytelling as a social process. American Ethnologist, 9, 799–819.) adversarial exchanges.

Methodology – In so doing, this chapter draws on the two chief strands of ethnomethodological inquiry: sequential analysis of talk as well as membership categorization analysis.

Research implications – The analysis not only allows for a deeper understanding of commonplace discourse practices in a confined correctional facility for young people, but more importantly, of the methods through which inmates draw on local, situational as well as commonsense resources to proverbially ‘rock the boat’, that is, to change the order of ongoing events.

Social implications – In this way, this chapter offers insight into the mundane life of a group of young people in forced care.

Purpose – Within the growing field of interactional research on children's interactions, the present study explores how social and moral order are established through embodied practices in a multilingual kindergarten classroom. It explores the interactions of immigrant children (with very limited knowledge of Swedish as a second language) and the systematic formats of teachers’ questions employed during children's disputes and tattling (children's reports of peer group conflicts and accusations of untoward behaviour).

Methodology – The study is based on a video-ethnography (50 hours of recordings) in a multilingual kindergarten class for 6-year-olds in Sweden. The analytical approach combines Conversation Analysis (CA) with analysis of multimodally mobilized actions.

Findings – The analyses highlight how interactional meaning-making in conflict situations is accomplished with very limited linguistic resources. Children's tattle telling cornered teachers into the position of being a neutral authoritative agent who acted on their responsibility to resolve the conflict. Teachers reorganized tattle telling into a multiparty interrogation. Different interrogative formats were employed to establish a ‘factually correct’ description of the event. Teachers used open questions (‘what happened?’), ‘why’ and ‘yes/no’ interrogative formats. ‘Why’ questions were lexically designed to implicitly confirm the culpability of the accused child. ‘Yes/no’ questions invited the child's ratification of the teacher's version of the event.

Research implications – It is argued that research on children's social order will gain from understanding that conflict resolution in educational settings is a multilayered social practice that both presents a locus where the institutional order is (re)established and a locus where children's peer group concerns are played out.

Purpose – Disputes provide a way for children to negotiate how they stand in relationship to one another in the local peer group interaction (Goodwin, 1990, 2006). This study follows the everyday peer disputes and classroom negotiations of a peer group of 8-year-old to 12-year-old Turkish–English speaking (and Meskhetian Turkish–English–Russian speaking) children attending a Turkish Saturday School in the United States, where a monolingual Turkish norm is projected by the teachers, to see how these institutional language norms are used as a resource for the peers to conduct their everyday interactions.

Methodology/approach – This study combines methods of ethnography (data are drawn from a year-long ethnography which followed children's everyday language practices in two school settings) and talk-in-interaction, specifically Membership Categorization Analysis (Sacks, 1972, 1992).

Findings – Children draw upon the monolingual school norm of using Turkish only, and speaking Turkish correctly, by way of positioning themselves moment-to-moment during disputes with one another. Through repeated appeals to their teachers to relax the Turkish-only rule, they also collaboratively index “speaking English” as a positive category-bound activity (Cekaite & Evaldsson, 2008; Evaldsson, 2007), influencing the local moral order of the peer group.

Social implications/originality/value of chapter – The study provides a view of how children living in a transnational society orient to wider societal structures and “build the phenomenal and social worlds they inhabit” (Goodwin & Kyratzis, 2012) as part of their everyday disputes and negotiations with one another.

Purpose – This chapter investigates an episode where a supervising teacher on playground duty asks two boys to each give an account of their actions over an incident that had just occurred on some climbing equipment in the playground.

Methodology – This chapter employs an ethnomethodological approach using conversation analysis. The data are taken from a corpus of video recorded interactions of children, aged 7–9 years, and the teacher, in school playgrounds during the lunch recess.

Findings – The findings show the ways that children work up accounts of their playground practices when asked by the teacher. The teacher initially provided interactional space for each child to give their version of the events. Ultimately, the teacher's version of how to act in the playground became the sanctioned one. The children and the teacher formulated particular social orders of behavior in the playground through multimodal devices, direct reported speech, and scripts. Such public displays of talk work as socialization practices that frame teacher-sanctioned morally appropriate actions in the playground.

Value of chapter – This chapter shows the pervasiveness of the teacher's social order, as she presented an institutional social order of how to interact in the playground, showing clearly the disjunction of adult–child orders between the teacher and children.

Purpose – In this chapter, the use and organization of conditional threats are analysed in relation to preschool children's disputes.

Methodology – Using conversation analysis, naturally occurring examples of children's threats observed in preschool classrooms demonstrate how conditional threats are placed, used and analysed by children in their talk-in-interaction.

Findings – The function of threats – specifically in terms of the outcome of children's disputes – cannot be classified by the content of the inducement. ‘You can’t come to my birthday party’, for example, is commonly heard in young children's discourse, but this threat is implicated in both the resolution and dissipation (abandonment) of dispute episodes. Accordingly, the meaning and analysability of threats is explored with respect to their relative value and their practical rationality.

Research limitations – This small data set presents the opportunity for the phenomena of children's threats to studied further in a larger collection.

Originality/value of chapter – This chapter makes a unique contribution to the study of language and social interaction by illustrating young children's competent use of conditional threats in the closings of peer disputes.

Purpose – This chapter demonstrates the social organization practices evident in early childhood disputes in order to promote a greater understanding of the role of non-verbal, embodied actions within the dispute process. In doing so, this chapter offers insight into children's co-construction of disputes and has practical implications for early childhood teachers.

Methodology – Ethnomethodology (EM), conversation analysis (CA) and membership categorization analysis (MCA) are applied to the current study of children's disputes in order to offer insight into the sequences of social organization processes evident in children's disagreements.

Findings – This chapter presents a detailed analysis of the everyday disputes which four-year-old children engage in during their morning playtime at a primary school in Wales, UK. It reveals the children's use of physical gestures to support their verbal actions in order to maximize intersubjectivity between the participants. This joint understanding was necessary during the social organization process.

Practical implications – Managing children's physical disputes within an educational context is recognized as a very difficult aspect of a teacher's routine as the timing and level of intervention are so subjective (Bateman, 2011a). This chapter offers insight into the organization of physical disputes between young children, and so enables teachers to make an informed decision in their practice.

Purpose – In this chapter, we examine an extended gossip dispute event, in which a peer group of 11-year-old girls take action against a girl who has reported about school bullying to the teacher by examining how the accused girls construct their own sociopolitical order away from the adults.

Approach – The analysis draws on ethnographic fieldwork within a Swedish multiethnic school setting combined with detailed analysis (conversation analysis and membership categorization analysis) of children's language practices.

Findings – It is found that the school's bullying intervention practice sets the stage for a trajectory of a gossip dispute event in which the accused girls work out their own version of the telling as snitching, reallocate blame, and project the future consequences for the girl being accountable for the telling. A moral order emerges via the organization of social actions, alignments, occasion-specific identities, and pejorative person descriptors, rendering the event of telling the teacher a disastrous move for the targeted girl. The micro-politics of the extended gossip dispute is pervasive in terms of how the accused girls strengthen social alignments of power, depict the transgressor by categorizing her as insane, and remedy the norm breaches through justifying their own actions.

Social implications – The success with which the girls here manage to turn the school's bullying intervention practice into a system of retaliation emphasizes the need for highlighting the micro-politics, of children's everyday practices away from adults.

Purpose – This chapter presents 5- to 12-year-old girls in their performances of persuasion and social control among peers in their inner city Neapolitan neighborhood of the Quartieri Spagnoli. It demonstrates how Quartieri Spagnoli girls employ rhetorical practices of appiccecarse (argumentation), specifically “shutdown” attacks, in attempts to advance one's social positioning and present themselves in control of a situation, while contemporaneously creating moral order among peers. In addition, this chapter elucidates how conflict can also strengthen relational bonds through the creation of alliances.

Methodology/approach – The analysis is based on 16 months of linguistic anthropological fieldwork. Seven focal girls and 16 of their female peers were observed and video-recorded in the home and in neighborhood streets.

Findings – Quartieri Spagnoli girls deploy a grammar of social control, including threats, directives, insults, physical attacks, wit, and intonation, to influence each other's behaviors and establish alliances and social hierarchy in their peer groups. This chapter demonstrates how those who demand control present themselves as agents who have power over other subjects and who themselves cannot be acted upon.

Social implications – Girls’ rhetorical skills serve to buy them status and situational power in their peer groups, offsetting feelings of powerlessness in an environment where they are otherwise excluded from mainstream peer groups and society.

Originality/value of chapter – This chapter offers a window onto young girls’ verbal prowess in establishing respect on inner city streets, a topic that has been almost exclusively reserved for males.

Purpose – This chapter examines disputes produced by two young children during computer game playing and considers how the disputes were related to the children's ongoing activity.

Methodology/approach – The study is framed by ethnomethodology and conversation analysis. Sequential analysis of recorded data details the mutual production of disputes during talk and interaction.

Findings – The analysis establishes how the children made each other accountable to the agreed-upon way of playing the game after one child offered to show the other how to play. Conflict developed during the game and disputes built upon previous disputes, especially in relation to claims made about knowing how to play.

Research implications – The disputes here are best understood in relation to how disagreement was avoided initially but then emerged as the gaming progressed. Examining disputes in the course of computer activity shows how the children turn agreement into disagreement over time.

Social implications – This study establishes some of the ways that disputes arise out of young children's social interactions during computer game playing and how disputes are related, or not, to shared understandings of what is going on moment by moment in the game.

Originality – Overall, this chapter provides a detailed sequential analysis across computer activity and establishes how the children's disputes challenge the order of game playing as the game progresses.

Purpose – The aim of the present chapter is to analyse episodes of dispute and conflict in co-located computer gaming. The main purpose is to extend prior research on dispute-interaction to a computer mediated setting.

Methodology – Naturally occurring multiplayer computer gaming was video recorded in Internet cafés (28 hours). A single case was selected that involved a series of escalating disputes over the course of 45 minutes of gaming. The social interaction involved – of two 16-year-old boys playing World of Warcraft – was analysed using conversation analytical procedures.

Findings – The sequential analyses show how the two players engaged in disputes at the points where one or both of the players’ avatars had been killed. The players held each other accountable for their in-game performance, and avatar death was a central event in which gaming competence was contested, often in outright confrontations. Such disputes, where each player attempted to present the other as inferior, were used for negotiating player identities in what Goffman (1967) has called character contests. In gaming, players thus risk losing the game as well as their social standings. Disputes were also linked to the variable stakes of the game: with more at stake, players were more likely to escalate conflicts to the point of even quitting the game altogether.

Originality – The chapter shows how disputes are central components in adolescents’ computer gaming, and how they both structure the players’ intersubjective understanding of the game, and how they play a role in local identity work.

Karin Aronsson is a professor at the Department of Child and Youth Studies, Stockholm University, and before that at Linköping University (1988–2008). Her work focuses on how talk is used to build social organization, with a particular focus on children's peer groups, institutional encounters, and identity-in-interaction. Other research interests include children's play, informal learning, and bilingual conversations. She publishes internationally, and her most recent papers appeared in Language in Society and Discourse & Society. A recent book is: Hedegaard, M., Aronsson, K., Højholt, C., & Skjær Ulvik, O. (Eds.). Children, childhood and everyday life: Children's perspectives. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

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Sociological Studies of Children and Youth
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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