The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies

Conversation Between Adults and Developing Children in Estonia and Sweden. A Cultural Comparison and the Meeting of Cultures.


Field: Psykologi, lingvistik
Project leader: Tiia Tulviste
Starting year: 1998

The aim of the study was to pinpoint the characteristics of family socialization patterns in Estonian, Finnish and Swedish mono- and bicultural families with early adolescent children (9 to 13 years old, M=11.5). Three monocultural groups consisted of 20 Estonian, 20 Swedish and 20 Finnish families living in their country of origin; two bicultural and bilingual groups consisted of 20 Estonian and 20 Finnish families residing in Sweden. In addition to the real-life video recordings of family mealtime interactions, the mothers’ attitudes towards social issues such as value preferences, child-rearing beliefs, and identity provide comparative background information.

The study revealed that Estonian mothers seem to regard children as less equal to their parents, stressing the need to control their children’s behavior. The real-life evidence supports this asymmetry—the Estonian mothers living in Estonia treat the teenagers as less equal conversational partners, exhibiting a significantly more directive and imperative conversational style than other mothers. In addition, these mothers place less emphasis on self-direction (creativity and independence) than the Swedish monocultural mothers. On the other hand, Estonian and Finnish mothers were rather alike in being significantly less talkative that the Swedish mothers. In conclusion, the Estonian monocultural mothers appear to value and exercise somewhat less democratic and more traditional socialization styles than their Finnish and Swedish counterparts.