‘Two’s company, three’s a crowd’

Multi-modal engagement with objects to position a child on the periphery of peer membership in a preschool classroom





peer social order, conversation analysis, young children, partitioning, objects


This paper examines how young children mobilize interactional resources to position peers as neither fully included nor fully excluded in a preschool classroom. A single case of a video recording of three preschool-aged girls was analysed using conversation analysis. Two girls restricted access to a third girl and positioned her on the periphery in peer activity. The third girl’s entry into the activity was restricted through the other two’s claims of object ownership, limited physical access to objects, multi-modal practices that diverted attention away from the coveted objects, and assessments and sanctions around engagement with an object. The recurrent attempts to keep out the third girl were undertaken through partitioning. Findings highlight how children protect dyadic relationships.

Author Biographies

Sandy Houen, Queensland University of Technology

Sandy Houen is a postdoctoral research fellow. Her frontline experience as an early childhood teacher and director informed her transition to academic research. Sandy has investigated educator-child interactions to locate how interactional resources can support (or inhibit) children’s contributions to discussions. Sandy’s research interests include conversation analysis, children’s social worlds and interactions, and early childhood education more broadly.

Susan Danby, Queensland University of Technology

Susan Danby is a professor in the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education and director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child. Her research applies ethnomethodological and conversation analysis perspectives to investigating children’s social interaction with each other, and adult-child settings including in homes, classrooms, clinical settings and helplines. She is interested in ways of working with visual and online ethnographies, from fieldwork to analysis.


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How to Cite

Houen, S. ., & Danby, S. . (2021). ‘Two’s company, three’s a crowd’: Multi-modal engagement with objects to position a child on the periphery of peer membership in a preschool classroom. Research on Children and Social Interaction, 5(1), 33–56. https://doi.org/10.1558/rcsi.18175