Children’s demands for parental action


  • Catherine L. Tam University of the Witwatersrand



deontic authority, directives, socialization, parent–child interaction, agency


Theory and research on parent–child interaction generally make a priori assumptions of asymmetry in authority between parent and child. Rather than investigating how children exercise autonomy by resisting parental authority, I examine their methods for exercising deontic authority in interaction with their parents. Using conversation analysis and drawing on Stevanovic and Peräkylä’s distinction between deontic status and stance, I analyse video-recorded naturally occurring interactions in which children issue demands to their parents, thus claiming a high deontic stance. Parents may choose to comply and reinforce the claim or not. Domains of deontic authority are (re)negotiated when children pursue compliance; though children can test the boundaries of their authority, parental responses reinforce them, reifying their own authority.

Author Biography

Catherine L. Tam, University of the Witwatersrand

Catherine Tam is a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. From an ethnomethodological and conversation analytic perspective, her doctoral thesis examines children’s agency in parent–child interaction. She is interested in the interactional mechanisms underpinning asymmetries and inequities in social relations.


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How to Cite

Tam, C. L. . (2021). Children’s demands for parental action. Research on Children and Social Interaction, 5(1), 12–32.