Beyond conflicts. Origin and types of issues leading to argumentative discussions during family mealtimes
This paper sets out to investigate the issues leading parents to engage in argumentative discussions with their children during mealtimes. Within a data corpus of 30 video-recorded meals of 10 middle to upper-middle-class Swiss and Italian families with a high socio-cultural level, 107 argumentative discussions between parents and children aged from 3 to 9 years old were selected. The approach for the analysis is based on the pragma-dialectical ideal model of a critical discussion. The results show that family argumentative discussions unfold around issues that are generated both by parental prescriptions and by children’s requests. The parental prescriptions largely concern context-bound activities such as having to eat a certain food or the teaching of correct table manners. The issues triggered by children’s requests refer to a wide range of activities, mainly related to the activity of mealtimes, but also related to the children’s behavior outside the family context. These results indicate that argumentative interactions between parents and children are not mere conflictual episodes that must be avoided, but they essentially have a broader educational function.