The interactional organisation of sex assignment after childbirth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


That society divides its members into females and males is the point of departure for much research on gender and language and yet the situated accomplishment of the primordial sex categorisation of the newborn child has not attracted much scholarly attention. The present study fills this research gap by exploring the interactional organisation of sex assignment in a corpus of 67 video recordings of Swedish hospital births. We present quantitative and qualitative support for the idea that sex assignment is a prioritised activity during the first minutes after childbirth. Contrary to descriptions and assumptions in previous research, we find that sex assignment typically is sequentially accomplished in the social interaction between parents and medical staff. Our analysis reveals a normative preference that selects parents (rather than medical staff) as the ones who should discover and declare sex. We also provide tentative evidence that sex assignment may be a gendered practice that prioritises the father (rather than the mother) as the individual entitled to assign sex.


External organisations
  • Uppsala University
Research areas and keywords


  • Childbirth, Conversation analysis, Membership categorisation, Sex assignment
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-222
Number of pages34
JournalGender and Language
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes