‘That is the dad and this is the mum’

Parent-child co-construction of heterosexual identities in conversations


  • Stina Ericsson Linnaeus University




sexual identity, heteronormativity, child language, conversation, Swedish


Based on a corpus of everyday adult-child conversations in Swedish, the study uses interactional linguistics to explore how sexual identity is managed by adults and young children. The five children are studied longitudinally, from about one and a half to three and a half years of age. The management of sexual identity is shown overwhelmingly to concern the management of heterosexuality, the conversations showing a strongly heteronormative view. Two areas are identified through which adults and children recreate heteronormativity. The first of these is romantic attraction, through comments and discussions concerning attractiveness, weddings and marriage, kissing, and handholding. The second area involves heterosexual couples and families, such as a speaker talking about a neighbouring couple or family, or speakers creating a 'play family' using stuffed animals. The analysis shows how the normalising of the heterosexual nuclear family starts early in life for the children involved, and how it is part of ordinary everyday activities. The analysis also indicates a gender difference, in that talk concerning romantic attraction is mainly found in conversations with girls, and the construction of pretend families during make believe and playing only exists in conversations with girls.

Author Biography

Stina Ericsson, Linnaeus University

Stina Ericsson is a lecturer at Linnaeus University. Research interests include interactional linguistics, gender and sexual identity, computational pragmatics, dialogue systems and information structure. Her current research project focuses on young children and sexual identity, specifically heteronormativity, in everyday conversations.


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How to Cite

Ericsson, S. (2012). ‘That is the dad and this is the mum’: Parent-child co-construction of heterosexual identities in conversations. Gender and Language, 6(2), 405–432. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v6i2.405

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