Social Interaction, Social Context, and Language: Essays in Honor of Susan Ervin-Tripp

By Dan Isaac Slobin; Julie Gerhardt et al. | Go to book overview

36 1
SHARING THE SAME WORLD, TELLING DIFFERENT STORIES: GENDER DIFFERENCES IN CO-CONSTRUCTED PRETEND NARRATIVES

Amy Sheldon
Lisa Rohleder
University of Minnesota

It is difficult to separate reality from fiction in the playground. The two are in a happy state of confusion; like dinner-party hilarity, when nonsense rises on bubbles of champagne...

Iona Opie. The People in the Playground.

This chapter is concerned with the question of how linguistic processes connect individual minds and bodies in and to a larger social order. We will consider how language is socially situated in experience and how that experience shapes us. We will show that children's talk with friends is an important medium for acquiring and displaying explicit and implicit knowledge of the world and of communal sociocultural norms.

Considering that girls and boys spend significant time in childhood with same-sex companions,2 we can ask if there are differences in these same-sex experiences which socialize children into gender-influenced, normative social practices? Social interaction often depends on shared knowledge and interests in order to be successful and satisfying. Are there differences in girls' and boys' shared knowledge or interests that are relevant to their interactions?

____________________
1
This study was funded by a University of Minnesota Graduate School Grant-in-Aid to Amy Sheldon. Support was also provided by the Center for Research in Learning, Perception and Cognition and grants from the University of Minnesota Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. We are grateful to the children and parents at the University of Minnesota Child Care Center and to the teachers and staff for their cooperation and assistance. We thank Kathleen Kremer, John Ogawa, Jeff Ringwelski, and Mike Young for their research assistance, and Aron Pilhofer and Jennifer Wesson for research assistance at an earlier stage.
2
Whiting and Edwards ( 1988, p. 81) say that the "emergence of same-sex preferences in childhood is a cross-culturally universal and robust phenomenon." Leaper ( 1994) also discusses childhood gender segregation.

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