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Volume 7 Issue 2 (July 1998), Pages no-no, 143-272

The Communication of Differential Relationships in Preschool Children: Preference and Social Theme (pages 164-180)

We examined the conversations of 14 preschool children to explore differences in communication between friends and nonfriends in a well‐established group. Children's social preferences were identified by analysing relative utterance frequencies which revealed a network structure of 4 cliques. We then examined whether the integration (inclusion/exclusion) and social theme (person/action) content of children's utterances, and the responses (accept/oppose) to these utterances, discriminated relationships in the social network. Our main findings were 1) Exclusive utterances were more likely to occur between nonfriends and to be opposed. Inclusive utterances were more likely to occur between friends and to be accepted. 2) Person and action themes were used differentially. In exclusion statements, nonfriends were more likely to be personally rejected whereas friends were more likely to have their actions rejected. In inclusion statements, personal references were more likely to be accepted between friends whereas references to a peer's actions tended to be accepted by both friends and nonfriends. We concluded that children adapted the integration and social theme content of their utterances to relationship context in order to establish more intimate interactions between friends and more distant interactions between nonfriends.

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