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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Erwing Goffmann on Trust and Children

A parent/children conversation: Leonardo La Vergine delle Rocce

How do we trust our children?
The study of trust relationships with children doesn't consider enough the role of conversation in the parent/children interaction. An exception is Erwin Goffman (1974) who describes the conversation between middle-class parents and their children as a form of benign control, that is, parents allow children many behaviours that they would not allow to adults (like play and pretence in social interaction) but the child pays a price for these priviledges in terms of trust and credibility. Parents feel legitimate to talk about children's activities in the presence of others as if they were absent. They feel free to expand or contract the time conceded to the face to face interaction according to their priorities and committments. The defection from the face to face interaction is not always motivated and can be felt by the child as an abrupt interruption.

A closer look to family conversation would throw some light on our way of making and breaking trust relationships with our children.

E. Goffmann (1974) Frame Analysis. An Essay on the Organisation of Experience, New York, Harper and Row.