Positioning updates as relevant

An analysis of child-initiated updating in American and Canadian families

  • Darcey K. Searles Northeastern University
Keywords: updating, family communication, family relationships, conversation analysis, sequence organization


Telling about your day is a documented component of close relationships. In examining nearly 31 hours of video-recorded English-speaking American and Canadian families with young children primarily between the ages of three and six, this paper analyses how children solve the problem of producing relevant updates about the goings on of their day. Findings indicate that child-initiated updates are ‘touched off ’ by prior talk or something in the immediate environment. I find that child-initiated updates occur in three sequential environments: (1) when they are prompted by a specific word/ phrase, (2) when they are prompted by an object in the locally immediate environment, and (3) when they are prompted by the local ongoing activity. Importantly, these updates are retrospectively activated in that they are responsive to what just occurred before, but also initiate a new sequence. The updating practices described here provide further evidence of the interactional sophistication of young children in that they show how children can exploit the ongoing environment to deliver updates about their own lives.

Author Biography

Darcey K. Searles, Northeastern University

Darcey K. Searles (PhD, Rutgers University) is a postdoctoral teaching associate in the Department of Communication in the College of Arts, Media, and Design at Northeastern University. She obtained her MA in applied linguistics from Teachers College, Columbia University and her BA in Spanish literature and BS in Spanish education from Boston University, with a minor in linguistics. Darcey’s research examines family communication in both co-present and mediated interactions, with a focus on interactions with and between young children.


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How to Cite
Searles, D. (2019). Positioning updates as relevant. Research on Children and Social Interaction, 3(1-2), 144-167. https://doi.org/10.1558/rcsi.37286