On the judgement and reporting of other’s behavior: A mixed-methods study of Chinese preschoolers’ development of tattling

Qiuwen DOU

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


Tattling refers to the reporting to a second party of counter-normative violations which are considered to be committed by a third party. Tattling, one of the most prevalent speech activities among children’s social life, has been recognized as a common and necessary methods for children, especially for preschoolers, to fulfill various intentions, such as self-benefit preservation, expressing insights into norms, and even malicious retaliatory motives. Though existing researches revealed that social cost of tattling has not emerged among preschoolers thus far, rare research has been conducted to specifically investigate classroom tattling activities of preschoolers with different sociometric statuses, as well as their insights into tattling events. A total of 136 children aged between 4 to 6 years were recruited in this thesis to conduct a 4-month mixed-method study. To be specific, the daily classroom tattling activities of the children were recorded and analyzed by participant observation and event sampling methods. In addition, an social rules interview was conducted on the respective child’s evaluation of tattling, cognitive abilities (e.g., theory of mind and emotion understanding). The findings implied that: 1. preschoolers with different sociometric statuses would adopt a wide range of tattling strategies and insights into tattling events. To be specific, the children of the mentioned population were biased towards reporting negative actions by peers. The rejected and controversial children in the respective class were more proficient in reporting others, while the former children reported more on events regarding themselves and the controversial children focused more events with no victims. In addition, given the overall tattling frequencies of the neglected children, they seldom reported on others.
2. Most reports were ignored by teachers, unless there would be an obvious negative emotion corrupt. The participant observation was conducted to contextualize different tattling intentions of preschoolers, as well as teachers’ interpretations of tattling, which demonstrated that tattling could take place in complex social contexts. The attitudes of teachers to tattling would differently affect the classroom tattling atmosphere.
3. As suggested from the investigation of children’s moral evaluations of tattling, children with different sociometric statuses would have different personal tattling intentions in peers’ moral transgression and distribute credits to tattling activities with different intentions. Additionally, 4. teachers’ authoritative effect would also impact children’s acceptability for tattling.
This thesis presented an innovative and localized perspective for educators to more effectively gain insights into classroom tattling events, developed effective class disciplines to decrease unnecessary reports, while demonstrating valuable linkages between psychology and educational studies. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • YIP, Chi Wing, Michael 葉志榮, Supervisor
  • WANG, Zhenlin, Supervisor
  • LI, Tianyuan, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Tattling
  • Individual differences
  • Sociometric statuses
  • Class disciplinary effect
  • Moral norm understanding
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ph.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2020.


Dive into the research topics of 'On the judgement and reporting of other’s behavior: A mixed-methods study of Chinese preschoolers’ development of tattling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.