“You are not allowed to pull someone’s tail!” a cross-cultural comparison of socio-moral comments in Estonian and Swedish peer interaction

Boel De Geer and Tiia Tulviste


The study compared the spontaneous use of verbal comments on socio-moral behavior in 20 Estonian and 22 Swedish kindergarten peer dyads during free play situations. All comments on Moral and Social- conventional rules were coded according to Piotrowski’s (1997) model, as well as according to outcomes (agreement, rejection, negotiation or silence). We found that Swedish children were more active in making socio-moral comments than the Estonian children, by commenting more on rules of Rights, Harm to others and Miscellaneous conventional rules. Both the Estonian and the Swedish children made more comments referring to social-conventional than to moral rules. As to outcomes, agreement was the most frequent type in the Swedish data, whereas silence dominated in the Estonian group. Also, the Estonian children rejected both moral and social-conventional rules more often than the Swedish children. Previous research in family dinner conversations in Estonia and Sweden has suggested a more egalitarian interaction pattern in the Swedish homes as well as daycare institutions and schools than in the Estonian equivalents (De Geer et al. 2002; Tulviste et al. 2002). A high amount of comments on socio-moral behavior, particularly comments on rights and harm to others, can be claimed to a further support for this claim.

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