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Children's Norm Enforcement in Their Interactions With Peers


  • We would like to thank Roger Mundry for statistical assistance; Isabelle de Gaillande-Mustoe and Nadine Kante for their help in recruiting the children and collecting data; Doreen Schrimpf, Christina Stockmann, and Irka Wetzig for their help in transcribing and coding the data; Petra Jahn for her help with the bibliography; and all day care centers and children for their friendly cooperation.


This study investigates how children negotiate social norms with peers. In Study 1, 48 pairs of 3- and 5-year-olds (N = 96) and in Study 2, 48 pairs of 5- and 7-year-olds (N = 96) were presented with sorting tasks with conflicting instructions (one child by color, the other by shape) or identical instructions. Three-year-olds differed from older children: They were less selective for the contexts in which they enforced norms, and they (as well as the older children to a lesser extent) used grammatical constructions objectifying the norms (“It works like this” rather than “You must do it like this”). These results suggested that children's understanding of social norms becomes more flexible during the preschool years.