ISSN 1753-0849

Childhoods Today Online JournalChildhoods Today

An online journal for childhood studies


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Volume 5 Issue 2 - December 23, 2011

Children Learning to Negotiate Unwritten Social Rules through Play

Suzanne Eyerman

This study examines how American children negotiate the unwritten social rules that guide their interactions with peers during play. Using video recorded data of play from summer camp and school recess free time, I analysed children’s talk and action to show how they sustain play with peers. Studying children interacting with each other highlights an aspect of children’s culture that is changing as their lives become more closely governed by adults because of changing beliefs about parenting and the reduction of play opportunities at school. Because of these cultural changes, children have fewer occasions to work on the important developmental task of negotiating unwritten social rules. Although children may engage in negotiations of unwritten social rules in interactions outside of play, such as within classroom activities, play provides a context in which children interact for extended time periods within contexts that are somewhat outside the immediate influence of adults.