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Title: An ethological study of social interaction among nursery school children
Author: Child, Maureen M.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1978
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The aim of this thesis was to formulate a conceptual framework and method for an empirical study of spontaneous social interaction (verbal and non-verbal) among nursery school children. Most previous approaches have not taken account of the intentions of one or both interactants because of: (a) the methodological difficulties of observing intention, and (b) difficulties with the concept of 'intention'. I began by applying ethological methods to describe children's social interactions, and attempted to define intention operationally. The initiation of interactions is described as the mutual focussing of children's attention. A criterion for saying that an individual's (the initiator's) directed act was intended to get the other's (the recipient's) attention was developed in terms of overt visual attention. To describe how interactions are maintained and terminated required an account of the recipient's actions. I compared the child's action on objects and persons, extending Piaget's notion of adaptedness to describe both. This provided a method for analysing sequences of interaction into successive units consisting of acts and their adapted responses. Adapted responses have a dual function: (a) expressing an intention, and (b) initiating the next unit in an interaction sequence. The initiator's acts were defined primarily with reference to the conventional meaning of the act and secondarily to the initiator's intention. These acts functioned to get adapted responses among groups of children of different age and experience. The results showed that one could describe an individual's social skill by looking at his performance: (a) as recipient, and (b) as initiator, of sequences in which he acts goal-directedly. I studied the effects of age/experience and sex of the children on aspects of their social interactions with (a) peers, (b) teachers, and (c) mothers. I argue that this work forms a descriptive base for further research on interpersonal interactions, integrating it with other approaches in the field.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available