Learning to apologize

Moral socialization as an interactional practice in preschool


  • Polly Björk-Willén Linköping University




apology, moral order, preschool, preschoolers, social interaction


This article explores the apology practices that occur among young children, aged 1-4 years, and their preschool teachers in a Swedish preschool. More specifically, it aims to analyse how apology events are framed and interactively accomplished, and how children reproduce apology in peer play. Earlier studies have shown that the apology practices of adults and children have different agendas, although children's apology practices echo those of adults. Approaching the participants' perspectives, the analyses show that the apology practices at preschool have a ritualized framework. This consists of (i) clarifying the source of the conflict, (ii) highlighting the moral order, and (iii) verbalizing and embodying the apology. The analyses show how the children transform the apology practices into their pretend play, whereby they display moral stances and get support for individual aims.

Author Biography

  • Polly Björk-Willén, Linköping University

    Polly Björk-Willén is an assistant professor at Linköping University and Uppsala University, Sweden. Her research interest is in interactional studies in preschool, investigating (bilingual) children's language use, ethnicity, children's computer use, as well as language policy in families and preschool. Most recently she is involved in research about cultural heritage, tradition and religion in Swedish preschool practices. She also takes part of a larger project that studies the moral and emotional socialization of children in preschool and in families in Sweden. Based on ethnomethodology and multimodal analysis, most of her studies focus on nonverbal as well as verbal interaction in mundane activities at preschool and at home.


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How to Cite

Björk-Willén, P. (2018). Learning to apologize: Moral socialization as an interactional practice in preschool. Research on Children and Social Interaction, 2(2), 177-194. https://doi.org/10.1558/rcsi.37387