Crying and crying responses: A comparative exploration of pragmatic socialization in a Swedish and Japanese preschool.

Cekaite, A., Burdelski, M.


The study investigates the concept of pragmatic socialisation (the social training and experience that a person undergoes in order to adapt and succeed in different social environments) by examining episodes in which two to three-year-old children cry, and the adults' response to this crying in two different kindergartens in two different countries – Sweden and Japan. The aim is to shed light on similarities and differences in the ways Swedish and Japanese kindergarten teachers react to crying, and to investigate the significance of these reactions for children's pragmatic socialisation.


The results show both similarities and differences in adults' reactions to children's crying in kindergartens in Sweden and Japan. An important difference was that the Swedish kindergarten teachers to a greater extent guided the child to explicitly articulate what was the unwanted action that led to the conflict/crying. The Japanese kindergarten teachers did this ‘investigative work’ faster, by only directing the questions about the cause to one of the children involved, otherwise leaving much unsaid. The researchers conclude that adults' reactions to children crying are both locally and culturally localised, in that they are linked to the conditions of the immediate interaction and underpinned by institutional norms.


The survey had two phases. The first phase was a multimodal conversation analysis, based on audiovisual recordings in a Swedish kindergarten (63 hours over 18 months) and a Japanese kindergarten (45 hours over 10 months), to investigate social actions and positions at the micro level. Then, based on this analysis, the researchers assessed the implications for what was potentially mediated and promoted at the meso level (e.g., identities, institutional norms) and macro level (e.g., societal norms, ideologies)


Cekaite, A., & Burdelski, M. (2021). “Crying and crying responses: A comparative exploration of pragmatic socialization in a Swedish and Japanese preschool”. Journal of Pragmatics, 178:329-348.

Financed by

The Swedish Research Council, Sweden