Socialization is a process through which children (or any novices in a new culture) become acquainted with rules and norms governing their cultural environment, and the primary tool of the socialization process is verbal interaction. The current project focuses on the nature of the linguistic tools children with different cultural background use for socializing their peers in kindergartens, comparing everyday peer interaction (e.g., conversational equality, expression of socio-cultural and moral rules, asserting power) in day-care centers in Estonia, Finland, and Sweden. The second focus of the study is language as a tool of gender socialization. The prevailing gender ideology in Sweden stresses the equality of sexes in all contexts both on the formal and informal level, whereas a gap between the formal ideology and the dominant attitude towards gender equality in Estonia is still noticeable. In our research we address the question whether the differences in governmental ideology are reflected also in bigger gender differences in Estonian (and possibly in Finnish) than in Swedish peer interaction.
The participating children’s parents were asked to fill out the Parental Developmental Goals Questionnaire developed for this study. An ANOVA indicated significant cultural differences only in responses to the subscale of Protestant Values, F(2,87) = 22.0, p = .000 – the Estonian mothers scored highest along these values, the Swedish mothers gave the lowest ratings to these goals, and the Finnish mothers’ average score was between other samples. Similarly, the items rated most important as the parents’ developmental goals were “I wish that my child would believe in his/her abilities” by the majority of Swedish and Finnish mothers, while the Estonian mothers emphasized “I wish that my child would grow up to be a diligent and capable person” and “I wish to raise my child into a conscientious and reliable person” more frequently.