Learning to Argue in Family Shared Discourse: The Reconstruction of Past Events

  • Clotilde Pontecorvo
  • Alessandra Fasulo
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (volume 160)


The aim of the study is to identify both modes of children’s participation in family disputes and types of argumentative moves adopted, particularly in the act of opposing (problematizing) others or defending oneself. The corpus consists of twenty-seven dinner conversations of ten middle-class families living in Rome and Naples, each with one child between three and six years and at least one older sibling.

Data are shown concerning relative distribution of six different discourse genres (according to temporal focus and presence of problematic events: Ochs & Taylor, 1993) and family members’ role in problematization. A qualitative analysis illustrates ways in which children are involved and act in family disputes. The quantitative results indicate that the problematizing activity occupies about 1/3 of family talk, allowing children peripheral participation in conflict talk; 1/2 of the problematizations are directed to the children. When discourse concerns past events, children show a lower rate of problematizing activity (31.3% vs. 40.9% of the whole of conflict talk) but — when challenged on their past behavior — they appear to have already learned at 4 or 5 years how to justify themselves and to provide rhetorically designed answers, using appropriate temporal markers, authority references, and visual recall devices. Children’s orientation to social and/or family norms and values is also discussed.


Past Event Dirty Hand Discourse Marker Argumentative Activity Family Dinner 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clotilde Pontecorvo
    • 1
  • Alessandra Fasulo
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Psicologia dei Processi di Sviluppo e SocializzazioneUniversitá degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza,”Italy

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