University of Oulu

Küttner, UA., Vatanen, A. & Zinken, J. Invoking Rules in Everyday Family Interactions: A Method for Appealing to Practical Reason. Hum Stud 45, 793–823 (2022).

Invoking rules in everyday family interactions : a method for appealing to practical reason

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Author: Küttner, Uwe-A.1; Vatanen, Anna2; Zinken, Jörg1
Organizations: 1Leibniz-Institute for the German Language, Augustaanlage 32, 68165, Mannheim, Germany
2Research Unit for Languages and Literature, Faculty of Humanities, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 1000, 90014, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 3.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2022
Publish Date: 2023-06-27


In this article we examine moments in which parents or other caregivers overtly invoke rules during episodes in which they take issue with, intervene against, and try to change a child’s ongoing behavior or action(s). Drawing on interactional data from four different languages (English, Finnish, German, Polish) and using Conversation Analytic methods, we first illustrate the variety of ways in which parents may use such overt rule invocations as part of their behavior modification attempts, showing them to be functionally versatile interactional objects. Their interactional flexibility notwithstanding, we find that parents typically invoke rules when, in the course of the intervention episode, they encounter trouble with achieving an acceptable compliant outcome. To get at the distinct import of rule formulations in this context, we then compare them to two sequential alternatives: parental expressions of an experienced negative affective state, and parental threats. While the former emphasize aspects of social solidarity, the latter seek to enforce compliance by foregrounding a power asymmetry between the parent and the child. Rule formulations, by contrast, are designedly impersonal and appear to be directed at what the parents construe as shortcomings in common-sense practical reasoning on the child’s part. Reflexively, the child is thereby cast as not having properly applied common-sense ‘practical reason’ when engaging in what is treated as the problematic behavior or action. Overt rule invocations can, therefore, be understood as indexical appeals to practical reason.

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Series: Human studies
ISSN: 0163-8548
ISSN-E: 1572-851X
ISSN-L: 0163-8548
Volume: 45
Issue: 4
Pages: 793 - 823
DOI: 10.1007/s10746-022-09648-0
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 6121 Languages
Funding: Küttner and Zinken acknowledge funding by the Leibniz Association under a Leibniz Cooperative Excellence Grant (Grant # K232/2019 awarded to Jörg Zinken). Work by the second author (Vatanen) was supported by the Eudaimonia Institute of the University of Oulu and the Academy of Finland (Project Number: 287219).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 287219
Detailed Information: 287219 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2022. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit