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Communicative functions of Why-questions in parent-child interaction at home

Bova, Antonio

In: Proceedings of the 15th European Conference of Developmental Psychology, 2012, p. 301-306

The present investigation has examined 3 to 6 year old children’s “why” questions and their communicative functions in family conversations. Children’s why questions included in thirty videorecordings of dinnertime interactions, held by Italian and Swiss families, were analyzed. In this investigation, the presence of two fundamental functions of children’s why questions,... More

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    Summary
    The present investigation has examined 3 to 6 year old children’s “why” questions and their communicative functions in family conversations. Children’s why questions included in thirty videorecordings of dinnertime interactions, held by Italian and Swiss families, were analyzed. In this investigation, the presence of two fundamental functions of children’s why questions, argumentative and explanatory, were brought to light. When the parent’s opinion is put into doubt, the children’s why question triggers the beginning of an argumentative discussion. When the child does not put into doubt the parent’s opinion, as it refers to an event considered already ascertained, the function of the why question is to solicit an explanation of its causes. Besides, the specific use of the children’s why question as a way to request the burden of proof, by assuming a waiting position before accepting or putting in doubt the parental prescription, were observed. The results of this study provide a contribution to research on parent-child interaction, taking into particular consideration the crucial argumentative role played by children.