Applied Psychology OPUS

Teasing within English-Speaking Latino Families

Aakriti Malhotra

Sociocultural and linguistic knowledge is acquired by children through everyday language-mediated interactions. Teasing is one type of interaction that can be found within a broad range of cultures, and can play positive or negative roles in children’s learning of their language and culture. Although studies have been conducted in Spanish-speaking families, there is a dearth of research examining the incidence of teasing in English-speaking Latino families. Therefore, the present study will explore the frequency and functions of teasing in English-speaking Latino families using an ethnographic methodology. Families were visited four times over the course of one month; all audio conversations were recorded and field notes were written immediately after each visit. Results showed eight different types of teasing grouped into three categories of teasing; there was higher variability in types of teasing and more advanced forms of teasing used in instances where the mother is present. Functions of teasing include reprimands, establishing a connection, life lessons, and diffusing a situation, all used in positive roles within these families. Through types of teasing children learn linguistic knowledge, and through functions of teasing children gain sociocultural knowledge; together, teasing can be used to help children become competent members of society. Future studies should investigate how teasing differs in bilingual households depending on the language being used, and how teasing looks between fathers and sons.