From: Eugene Matusov
Submit: Post Field Note
Date: 18 Aug 1996
Remote Name: pax-ca8-12.ix.netcom.com
Dear Zhenya and Nancy--
Thanks a lot for your useful feedback that helped me think deeper about the issues ("inquiries") I'm concerned about.
First peer: Maria, 10, female; Kate, 11, female;
Second peer: Lora, 10, female; Ann, 10, female
Maria and Kate worked together on building a marble track on the floor. Lora and Ann also worked on marble track just next to the first peer of girls. Maria and Kate completed their track (which was a rather sophisticated construction with several fragil bridges) first, they enthusiastically invited Lora and Ann to try the track. Lora and Ann joined Maria and Kate in probing the track. An some point, Lora moved her foot and destroyed the most sophistacted part of Maria and Kate's construction. Lora looked at Kate with emberassment. Kate stood up, slowely came up to Lora and Ann's construction, slowely moved he foot toward the most volnurable part of the girls' construction, looked at the girls (as if saying "watch me!") and destroyed Lora and Ann's construction. Kate and Ann silently returned to re-build their track as well as Maria and Kate. Both peers worked separately for the rest of the day without communicating with each other.
During the incident I was helping a group of boys to build their marble track. Students who were working with the girls left the room for this momemt, I guess, to bring more marble track blocks into the room. I'm not sure that they ever were aware what happened until I told about the incident during the debriefing.
It seemed to me that nobody in the room (neither children nor adults) noticed the incident (but I can be wrong, so, folks, let me know if you saw it). I guess Zhenya correctly described the reasons I did not interfere in the conflict:
1) I wasn't sure that I suppose to interfere or it was right thing to do (I'm still not sure). 2) I didn't know how to interfere in children's interpersonal problems (although, now I found some guidance on the "Purposes & Expectations: Participation in field observations, debriefing, and helping children at the site" page of this Web). 3) I saw that the girls did not excalate the conflict and there was no fight. 4) I wanted to see how the girls would solve the problem by themselves.
I didn't notice any alternation in the ways the children re-build their marble track construction. I just didn't notice (sorry, Nancy). I wish I was more attentive to the things like that (next time I'll try). I think that the girls did not work the same way after the incident, but it's hard to say for what changed (sorry).
It was a case of children's violance and lack of problem solving skills. I wonder if children develop these skills in several months. It is probably interesting to observe these girls more. I wonder how we can help kids to learn interpersonal skills.
I guess I'm interested in cross-cultural issues regarding resolving interpersonal problems and the role of verbal vs. non-verbal communication in this process.
Why did Kate retaliate although it was pretty obvious that Lora destroyed Kate and Maria's track not on the purpose? Maybe, Kate could not control her emotions? Or maybe there is a history of the girls' relations? Why didn't Lora and Ann complain? Why wasn't there much communication? Maybe the girls do not have communication skills or maybe they communicate non-verbally? Rogoff, Mistry, Jayanthi, Goncu, & Mosier (1993) descibed cultures that put much more stress on non-verbal communcation. Is it necessary to express feeling verbally for successful interpersonal relations? Can be interpersonal problems resolved non-verbally? In my experience, some verbal negotiation is always present.
Zhenya wrote, "I disagree with Eugene who seems to suggest that in some cultures people can solve interpersonal problems without language." It was NOT my point. I just wanted to say that verbal and non-verbal communican can play different roles in different culture and people may spend different anmmount of time (or energy, or whatever) on these types of communication. I think I agree with Zhenya that verbal communication may be crucial for resolving interpersonal problems but I'd love to read more cross-cultural literature on this topic.
I was shocked by the Nancy's comment that it is difficult to imagine for her that boys would "would behave in such non-verbal manner in their conflict as the girls" did in a similar conflict. For some reason, it is difficult to imagine it for me too, dispute the fact, that I always thought that girls are more verbal than boys. Probably, not in all situations, aren't they?