Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

preschoolers to dominate in the possession of objects. In Germany, Lattke (1936) cited 
anthropological origins for his ethological study of possessiveness and dominance among 
school boys. He concluded that motives of social dominance were more important than utility 
in boys’ object relations, particularly for older boys. Lattke (1936) also described children’s 
acquisition motifs as “games”, not unlike Aldis’s (1975) observations that object conflicts 
among animals are “games” of dominarice. In the tradition of European action tasty, Yon 
Cranach and Kalbermatten (1982) have used ethological methods to record a high incidence of 
object conflicts among preschoolers. Most recently Ross and colleagues in Canada have been 
replicating much of the earlier studies on preschoolers’ object conflicts, but challenging the 
traditional presumptions that such interactions are socially and developmentally negative 
(Conant, 1987; Hay & Ross, 1982; Ross, 1982; Ross & Hay, 1977). They cite Piaget's (1926/1959) 
argument that children’s disputes are important to overcoming egocentric thought, since 
quarreling necessarily requires the recognition of others in order to accommodate to them. 
A second ethological tradition has arisen more recently and more directly from biology. 
For example, in an ecological study of interpersonal conflicts among nursery school children, 
Houseman (1972) found 67% of the conflicts to be centered on activities with objects. 
Interestingly, there were nearly twice as many conflicts when the teacher was present, 
indicating the very social nature of the phenomena. Eisenberg-Berg, Hand and Haake (1981) 
applied Esser’s ecological methodology to children and found that preschoolers with restricted 
territorial ranges to be ess dominant and less possessive. 
In the sociobiological tradition of child study, as reviewed by Strayer and Strayer (1976), 
Strayer (1980) and Ellyson and Davidio (1985), many studies have used successful seizure or 
defense of possessions as indicators of dominance in children (e.g. Chapeskie, 1975; Gellert, 
1961; 1962; Omark, Omark & Edelman, 1975; Savin-Williams, 1977; Sluckin & Smith, 1977). In a 
recent study in Ethology and Sociobiology, Weigel (1984) made ethological observations of 
children in preschool classes and found that aggressive children with a record of successful 
dominance were more likely to obtain possession and use of desired objects. Surprisingly, 
aggressive displays caused stronger defensive reactions by the initial possessors of the 
objects in dispute, possibly because aggression is person-directed as opposed to 

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