Broken Interaction Rituals, Struggles for Membership, and Violence among Young Children in Two Danish Schools

Sidsel Vive Jensen and Kathrine Vitus


Children’s conflicts, understood as disagreements involving negative emotional energy, constitute a particularly intense type of social interaction. In this paper, we show that children’s conflictual interactions in school differ with regard to interactional dynamics and levels of confrontational tension, which together potentially lead to violence. We discuss how these differences relate to issues of inclusion and exclusion, to levels of interactional resources, and to neighborhood differences. Our conclusions are based on analysis of fieldwork data on children aged five to eight in two Danish schools. The analysis applies Goffman’s and Collins’s perspectives on interaction rituals and violence and the concept of emotional capital based on Bourdieu’s theory of practice. Keywords: conflict, violence, children, interaction ritual chains, emotional capital, school environments, emotional energy, interactional resources

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