Supporting children’s rights through a reconsideration of the way relations form: Playing in the in-between

How day-to-day family interactions support child development

Authors: Dr Cynthia à Beckett

In this article, Dr Cynthia à Beckett explains how day-to-day family interactions referred to as ‘playing in the in-between’ support child development. She draws on research to explain the difference between identity logic (social exchange) and relational logic in parent-child interactions:

  • identity logic (social exchange): daily interactions typically characterised by collaborative actions, adults taking the lead, certain expected actions taking place, each party behaving according to set understandings of self and others
  • relational logic: daily interactions that provide a more authentic learning environment, by recognising spontaneous, unexpected moments.

Interactions that focus on social exchange can have expectations and demands that may make it difficult for children to have a sense of being loved, valued, and included. But interactions between adults and children that are based on relational logic can help children thrive in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.

In her research Dr à Beckett describes exchanges that are based on relational logic as ‘playing in the in-between’. These are times that are free of a set agenda, although it might start that way. No-one is in a dominant role, and both adult and child respond in an open, relaxed manner. This is when deep relations form. Playing in the in-between can be applied to family life where family members relate to one another in an authentic way of being. These moments are simple, calm, often wordless, and profound.

Being open to moments of playing in the in-between has implications for practitioners working with children who have suffered times of stress. This approach encourages both parties to feel relaxed, safe and free of pressure. Engagement has elements of warmth and mutuality. No-one takes a dominant role. In fact, anyone can take the lead because things flow and change. Understanding the difference between moments of social exchange and moments when relations form can support the vital work of practitioners to enhance the life and rights of all children, especially those who are at risk.

Articles from the Convention addressed in this paper

Preamble of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Recognising that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.

Article 31: All children have the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

Read the full article (PDF, 904KB)

Kids Helpline

1800 55 1800

This portal is aimed at people working in youth-serving organizations to help them better prevent and respond to harm to children.

If you would like to talk to a trained professional about what you’ve seen on the Portal, or need help, please call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.


If you believe a child or young person is in immediate danger, call Police on 000.

Emergency and safety

Further information

For further information on crisis responses and reporting child abuse and neglect, see: Australian Institue of Family Studies website.

Visit website