"I want to talk but it's not possible!" Dinnertime argumentation in Italian and Swiss families

Arcidiacono Francesco, Antonio Bova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper investigates to what extent Swiss and Italian family members engage to resolve differences of opinion during their everyday conversations at home. The goal to point out the importance of the context in the analytical reconstruction of argumentation carried out by parents and children at dinnertime and to highlight the similarities and differences among different situations. By means of case studies, we intend to analyze qualitatively how argumentation shapes the communicative practices of Swiss and Italian family members and how it can foster a critical attitude in their processes of decision-making. We integrate two theoretical and methodological approaches: the first one is the model of the critical discussion, derived from the pragma-dialectical perspective. It represents an ideal argumentative discussion against which real-life interaction can be analytically reconstructed and evaluated. The second one is the conversational and discursive approach that aims at identifying the sequential patterns of discourse produced by participants. Within conversations at dinnertime, we rely on insights from those approaches in order to interpret context-bound communicative and argumentative moves among family members. The results of study show that within this particular setting of dinnertime conversations the pragma-dialectical and conversational analyses are powerful methods to understand how argumentation fosters a critical attitude in the process of building the family consent. Families show different ways through which children are socialized to argue and to discuss with adults, developing strategies and particular conversational devices within this kind of activity. The findings of this study open a large space for investigation about the management of family debates in different contexts, taking into account a double perspective on argumentation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-368
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • family, argumentation, discursive interaction, critical discussion, parent-child conversation


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