This study investigates the nature of threats and their responses as collaborative units in children's discourse. Coding of conversations between preschool children yields frequency data that suggest that assertions provoke threats while offensive threats are produced more than defensive threats. Analyses of types of threats indicate a preference for expressing harm to the interactional partner or intending to withhold an object or action from the partner. The partner most frequently responds to the threat with a rejection thereby countering the speaker's attempt to control. The sex of the interactant does not influence the frequency of threats, but it does affect the type of threat as female children show a clear preference for withhold-object or action and harm-threats while male children focus exclusively on harm-threats. Younger children produce more threats than older children and threats occur more frequently in child-directed settings compared to adult-directed settings. © 1983, Sage Publications. All rights reserved.