A study on Chinese preschool children’s tattling behaviors and relations with teacher's responsive patterns

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Tattling, one typical expression of peer conflicts, refers to the reporting to a second party of counter-normative violations which they believe are committed by a third party. It has been regarded as an important approach for preschool children to express desires and understandings of social norms. However, seldom study has been carried out in China, neither do we know if Chinese teacher's responsive patterns of tattling events have effectively settled the peer conflicts. A 40-hour classroom event sampling observation was conducted among thirty-one 58-67 month-old (M= 65.57, SD=2.37) children (15 boys). Each child was focal followed by researcher for two 45-minute sessions. During a tattling event, the conversation, emotional expressions of tattlers', and consequence of tattler and miscreant's were noted, as well as teacher's responsive patterns. Among 133 recorded tattling events, 122 (91.73%) events were directly reported to teachers and only 11 (8.27%) were reported to other peers. The observed children reported conventional transgressions more than moral transgressions. Boys and girls did not present any differences in reporting events about moral or conventional transgressions, but boys (M= 6.53, SD=5.462) were more frequently reported by others than girls (M=3.63, SD=3.263). A quasi-significant gender difference revealed when comparing the frequency of reporting the group transgressions, with boys (M=0.6, SD=.828) reported more frequently on peers than girls(M=0.19, SD=.403) did (t(29)=1.78, p=.085). Tattlers who reported with negative emotion expressions (cry, angry, sad, unhappy) significantly predicted if teacher will response to the tattling event, β= .333, t(121) = 3.86, p < .00. In addition, tattler's negative emotions also explained a significant proportion of variance in tattling conflicts reconciliation, Rsquared= .054, F(1, 121) = 6.86, p = .01. No significant correlation was detected between children's popularity degree and frequencies in reporting other's misbehaviors, or being reported by others, suggesting that the observed Chinese children's tattling strategy will not be effected by their own or other's social acceptance degrees. We also found that 9.8% of the variance of tattling conflict reconciliations could be predicted by teachers excusing to ignore the tattling (β= -.250, t(121) = 2.823, p = .006), indicating that the more teacher ignore the tattling events for an excuse, the worse the tattling conflicts between peers could be settled. Further research will include more children age from 4 to 7 years old, children's social dominance hierarchy, relational aggression degree into consideration, as well as their moral evaluations towards tattling in various situations, so that to better understand if any factors could effectively predict the problematic tattling children from others. Copyright © 2018 ICCA.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


Dou, Q., & Yip, C. W. M. (2018, January). A study on Chinese preschool children’s tattling behaviors and relations with teacher's responsive patterns. Paper presented at The 2nd International Conference on Childhood and Adolescence and the 5th Annual Meeting of the Social Paediatric Subcommittee (SPS-SPP) of the Portuguese Society of Paediatrics, Olaias Park Hotel, Lisbon, Portugal.


  • Tattling
  • Children
  • Peer conflicts
  • Teacher's responsive patterns


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