Anni Kajanus: Who will yield?

Who will yield? – Children’s understanding of dominance and prestige in China and in the UK

From an early age, children start to understand status processes in their social environments. Findings of cognitive sciences suggest that the ability to discern hierarchical relationships, as well as coercive and non-coercive processes that give rise to them, is to an extent an evolved cognitive capacity available to all humans. This paper investigates in detail how children develop an understanding of dominance-based and prestige-based status processes; how it is shaped by culturally specific moral frames; and how prestige and dominance interact with processes of ascribed status. A comparison of children in London, UK, and Nanjing, China, brings together anthropological and psychological approaches, and reveals how the central values mediating status and conflict, respect in London and yielding in China, lead to particular expectations about the behaviour of dominant and prestigious individuals.