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About this book

The new go-to text for Early Childhood Studies, this comprehensive book provides an essential introduction to the field. Written in a fresh and interesting style, the book covers topics such as early childhood in a global context; historical and contemporary theories of child development; sociologies and representations of childhood; early education, diversity and inclusion; and health and well-being. This book also acts as an aid to students conducting original research in childcare settings in preparation for an extended study or dissertation. Further, it takes readers beyond academic study of the subject with a chapter that outlines research opportunities in this sub-discipline of psychology as well as guidance on working with children and adults in early years contexts, providing an overview of the varied career opportunities.

Throughout the book, Jenny Willan makes vital links between theory and practice and helps prepare students for a career working with a diverse community of children, parents and professionals.This is a must-read text for students on degree courses in Early Childhood Studies or those specialising in education in Early Years settings, as well as professionals already working in the field.

‘If you can only afford one book on early childhood, it has to be this one. Early Childhood Studies provides a compelling and comprehensive introduction to the field. Engagingly accessible as a textbook, yet effortlessly scholarly, this volume is essential reading and a 'must-have' companion for all with an interest in understanding early childhood in contemporary times.’
- Mary Jane Kehily, Professor of Gender and Education at The Open University, UK

‘This is a fully comprehensive examination of childhood. It will make an excellent core textbook for students of Early Childhood Studies; they will find it interesting, easy to read and informative. I would be proud to have written it myself!’
– Penny Farrelly, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Society and Health, Bucks New University, UK

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
These are exciting times for Early Childhood Studies (ECS). Working with young children is enjoyable and rewarding – even more so when you have an insight into some of the history and theories that lie behind the practices that exist today. Over the past three decades, Early Childhood Studies has become a significant area of scholarship around the world as educationalists, health professionals, social scientists and policy makers have turned their attention to the lives of children in the years from birth to 8. They have concluded that early childhood really matters. There is a renewed focus on the ways in which we can support children and families in the present to lay the foundations for them to have fulfilling lives in the future. ECS is made up of an eclectic mix of disciplines. We can think of it as being at the centre of a Venn diagram, crossing the boundaries into history, literature, art, philosophy, sociology, psychology, cultural studies and politics and it is for this reason that the book is sub-titled ‘a multidisciplinary approach’. ECS will introduce you to ideas that explain how and why, at different times and in different places, adults choose very different ways to initiate and integrate their children into their particular community. In some societies boys and girls are prepared for different roles, in others gender is less deterministic; in some traditions children with disabilities are considered impossible to educate, in others they are supported to achieve and participate as far as they can; in some societies children may be seen but not heard, in others their opinions are actively sought and respected.
Jennifer Willan

Understanding Early Childhood Studies

Frontmatter

1. What is Early Childhood Studies?

Abstract
Working with young children is great fun and very rewarding – every day can bring unexpected delights and unexpected challenges. Sometimes young children seem just like us; at other times they seem to live in their own different world. There are so many questions. When a newborn baby fixes his gaze on his mother’s eyes, what does he see? When a one-year old offers a toy to a crying companion, is she showing empathy? Why do some children crawl and others shuffle? When a two-year-old hops around on all fours, declaring he is Peter Rabbit, does he really believe it? And how do children learn language so fast? Why do they have imaginary friends? What is the point of play? Should seven-year-olds still be playing make-believe? Are computer games bad for young children? Besides these questions about individual children, there are wider ones which ask how children fit into society. Where do parents’ and children’s rights begin and end? How far can the state intervene in family life? Who is responsible for safeguarding children at risk of harm? Should parents bear the full financial responsibility for their offspring, or should the state provide support? These are just some of the questions you will address in this book. You will discover that, far from being straightforward, ideas and values about children and childhood are continually contested and differ according to contexts of time, place and culture. Why study ‘early’ childhood? When we talk about early childhood, we are generally referring to children from birth to age eight. Early Childhood Studies (ECS) is concerned with early childhood education and care (ECEC).
Jennifer Willan

2. Early childhood in a global context

Abstract
Early childhood education and care does not take place in isolation; it is part of a larger movement concerned with improving the lives of all young children around the globe. One of the pleasures and challenges of working in ECEC is meeting families and children from a wide variety of backgrounds and ethnicities; this is a sign of the ‘global’ times we live in. Previous generations grew up in largely monocultural nation states, but since the 1960s the world has witnessed complicated migration patterns prompted by economic, social and political pressures. You may become part of this migration yourself, perhaps working abroad in the future, or perhaps you already are; but even if you stay in the country of your birth, you will meet children from many different cultures, part of a modern ‘global’ movement of people. The movement is both physical and cultural; products, processes and ideas all spread rapidly around the world through electronic media, and no adult or child on the planet is unaffected. These global trends provide the macro-context for Early Childhood Studies, and their effects filter down to local workplaces, raising all sorts of issues for early childhood specialists. Time to reflect Inward and outward migration has become a global phenomenon over the past half century as people follow jobs or flee from war or persecution. Migration brings together different cultural attitudes and beliefs, sometimes in challenging ways. One visible difference lies in the clothes people choose to wear. Think about dress codes in a professional early childhood setting.
Jennifer Willan

3. Some theories of child development

Abstract
Every generation asks the question, ‘How can we best promote the physical and mental health of our children so that they can lead satisfying and fulfilling lives?’ For most of us, theories of child development are embedded implicitly in an oral culture passed from generation to generation, as parents seek advice from grandparents, families and friends about how to raise children – how to get babies to sleep through, when to wean, how to discipline, how to support, the role of praise and punishment in socialisation, and so on. Underpinning this collective advice are beliefs and theories about child development which may differ across history and culture. Over the past century, Western theories of child development have come to dominate the academic and popular literature. Theories about child development often divide into those which hold that inherited genes (nature) largely determine physical and mental well-being and those which hold that environment (nurture) is largely responsible. However, most theories recognise that both are implicated, and philosophers and scientists argue over the relative influence of nature and nurture on individuals and societies. Every generation revisits the debate with a fresh eye – one way or another most of us believe that ‘the child is father of the man’, but we are less certain whether it is the hand that rocks the cradle or the character children are stamped with at birth that makes the most difference to the way lives turn out.
Jennifer Willan

Understanding Child Development: Supporting the Unique Child

Frontmatter

4. Physical development – the interplay of body and brain

Abstract
Part 2 considers the ways in which bodies and brains develop holistically as children engage physically, cognitively and emotionally with the world around them. Although the process is holistic, it seems easier for the purposes of study to break it into the classical areas of development, covering physical, cognitive, social, linguistic and emotional development. The human child has a very long period of dependency compared to other mammals, and it takes around eight years to develop from vulnerable baby through mobile toddler to chatty preschooler and independent schoolchild. Parents and carers need to constantly adapt to the growing child in order to provide the right balance of nutrition, exercise, sleep and stimulation to support each developmental phase. Development is a holistic process of interaction between body and brain, involving reciprocal physical, social, emotional and intellectual responses. It is dependent on the interplay of heredity, character, family, neighbourhood and culture, and no two children will develop in exactly the same way – even identical twins brought up in the same home will be different. Children progress at different speeds, and it is important to remember that the charts included in this chapter showing the ‘normal’ path of development can provide only a rough guide to what might be expected for a particular child at a given age.
Jennifer Willan

5. Cognitive development

Abstract
Children demonstrate an awesome capacity to learn from the moment they are born. How do they do it? And how can we help them? There is no definitive answer, of course – every theory of learning is tied to its social, cultural and historical context. What we call cognitive development in the West is sometimes thought of rather narrowly as an individual mental journey through what is known as ‘knowledge’, culminating in a particular kind of rational abstract thought that can be measured and tested and delivered through ‘schooling’. In other cultures, cognitive development is more widely defined as enculturation, the process through which children gradually learn to take up their social responsibilities in the family and the community. Over the last century, several grand theories of learning held sway before new theories emerged to challenge them. Some theories postulate that cognitive ability is fixed and determined at birth, others that children can be trained to think and learn. Some suggest that children learn through trial and error like solitary little scientists, others that learning is a social activity. More recently, learning theories have described children as little apprentices gradually progressing from novice to master. Currently, there is great interest in exploring the emotional self-regulation required for children to develop the focus and involvement required for learning new information and skills. All these theories have a place, but none of them provide a complete explanation.
Jennifer Willan

6. Socialisation, language and play

Abstract
As we saw in Chapters 4 and 5, the urge to socialise drives both physical and cognitive development. In this chapter we look at how early socialisation also lays the foundations for play and language development. Play, language and socialisation are intricately bound and develop in lockstep with one another; they grow together out of the first interactions between the mother and her newborn baby. Progress is rapid, so that by the age of four, children have the full repertoire of language and communication skills at their disposal and can fit into a range of social situations. By age eight language and social skills are developed enough for children to work in groups and to take on sophisticated leader and follower roles in their play. Relationships are the key to developing language and social skills; early nurturing environments that provide emotional warmth, interactive social opportunities and stimulating experiences offer the best chances for children to develop language, play and social skills. The task of the practitioner is to work with parents to ensure that they understand the importance of playing and talking and to work with their children to provide enabling environments which offer support for a range of play opportunities which extend language and thinking. Socialising from the beginning The first social interaction begins in the delivery room, in those intense mother-and-baby moments just after birth, and they gradually extend over the next few years to include the wider family, friends, child carers and neighbourhood networks that constitute the child’s particular cultural milieu.
Jennifer Willan

7. Emotional and moral development

Abstract
All children are unique, and their emotions, values and behaviours develop in different ways through a combination of individual temperament, family influences, and cultural expectations. At the core of emotional and moral development is the need for strong attachment ties, and many experts believe that secure emotional attachment is critical for mental health, emotional stability and maintaining satisfying social relationships. It is the constancy and consistency of first attachments which provide the foundations for developing a sense of self, for making wider relationships and for acquiring a moral framework. As children progress through infancy and childhood, they begin to take into account the effects of their words and behaviour on other people and to exercise conscious ‘effortful’ control over their emotions, tailoring their behaviour in prosocial ways to fit in with the shared moral values of the people around them. This chapter looks at some of the ways children learn emotional control, prosocial behaviour and moral reasoning and considers the key role that EC professionals play in this development. For children in the age range from birth to eight, a secure attachment to the adults in their lives is crucial; parents provide the first attachment, but relationships with their key person in preschools and schools play an important part too.
Jennifer Willan

In the Best Interests of the Child: Shaping Children’s Lives

Frontmatter

8. Children and families in context

Abstract
Part 2 showed how the individual child develops. In Part 3 we will look at the way in which sociology has changed the focus from individual development to the study of children as part of a social order of family, neighbourhood and culture. Sociology shows us that children do not develop in a vacuum but are subject to influences from a wide variety of social contexts and social constructs. The chapter discusses the changing nature and plurality of modern family forms and introduces some key sociological themes. It ends by considering some of the interventions designed for disadvantaged families with young children. A sociological understanding Sociology is the systematic study of human societies; societies can be studied along several dimensions from the macro-level of political and economic organisation to the micro-level of individual family structure. It looks for explanations of human behaviour in social structures (families, neighbourhoods, culture) and in the social influences that shape values and aspirations. It asks questions about how things like wealth, gender, class, culture, status and power impact on people’s lives. Many of you will have answered yes to all these questions – you are probably at university and are likely to come from a family that places a high value on education. If you answered no, you may be older, perhaps combining study with parenting.
Jennifer Willan

9. Representations of childhood

Abstract
Our understanding of children and childhoods is complex and often contradictory. But it is important for us as early childhood specialists to try to get to grips with the hidden and sometimes unconscious ideas that lie behind the metaphors and concepts that we use to talk about children. We might think of childhood as a time of carefree pleasures and innocence, or we may be more concerned that it is a time of preparation for adulthood in the future. Whatever our beliefs, they will shape the way we see children and how we relate to them. Understanding something of the history of adults’ representations of children provides us with a perspective on our own contemporary versions of childhood. The history of childhood has often been characterised by what we would now regard as cruel and inhuman treatment but which at the time was considered to be in the best interests of children. In different times and places, adults’ beliefs about bringing up children have been couched in terms of growth and nature, taming and moulding, training and inspiring, and preparation for future citizenship. All these beliefs coexist, but sometimes one view prevails, sometimes another. These beliefs underlie the way adults treat children and what provision they make for them. Perhaps the most salient feature of contemporary childhoods, particularly in the West, is the expansion of children’s rights and the inclusion of children’s voices in decisions that directly affect the quality of their lives.
Jennifer Willan

10. Early education

Abstract
In most countries around the world, early education (and care) for newborns to eight-year-olds has become a focus of attention for governments and policymakers. This chapter provides an overview of the emergence of early education in its various forms and discusses some of the principles underlying important debates about the role of parenting, play and teaching that contribute to the contemporary picture. This chapter will give you some sense of the tremendous struggle that has taken place over more than a century to make quality education for young children a high priority. Historically, early education has drawn on an eclectic mix of ideas and good practice from all over the world (see Chapter 3). Contemporary research and practice follows this tradition, and nowadays the Internet offers instant access to a host of ideas from specialists in the field who maintain a lively global debate sharing insights about new developments in the field. You can find from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), ILO (International Labour Organisation), WHO (World Health Organisation) and World Bank websites comparative data about what is on offer in different countries. In England, early education and care is governed by the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (birth to age five) and the National Curriculum KS1 (five to seven).
Jennifer Willan

Children in Society: Every Child Matters

Frontmatter

11. Early childhood social policy

Abstract
To study social policy is to study the ways in which governments seek to alter conditions for individuals in the interests of society as a whole. At their most benign, social policies provide solutions to the social problems which hinder the full participation of adults and children in the society in which they live. Children’s lives are to a great extent influenced by social policy because they and their families are principal recipients of welfare services in education, care, health, justice and housing. Their experiences in these areas will have a major impact on their present and future well-being. Social policies are always in flux – they are adapted and changed to meet new expectations as society changes, as governments change and as the economic climate changes. Policymakers draw on research evidence to guide their proposals, but they are also influenced by the politics and economics of the day. In democracies, successful and sustainable social policy builds on customs, habits and traditions which resonate with the values of the people, culture and times and are enshrined in law. As nations face increasing globalisation, international law and the principles underpinning it – equality, fairness and human dignity – play an increasingly important role in the formation and implementation of policy. Beliefs about children’s needs and rights have changed radically since the nineteenth century, as have the structure of families and the organisation of society.
Jennifer Willan

12. Diversity and inclusion

Abstract
We are all different, but we all deserve to be treated with equal respect, and we are all entitled under the law to take our part in an inclusive society. Early years professionals are expected to promote inclusive and anti-discriminatory practice for the children and families in their care and, just as importantly, for colleagues in their workplace. In practice, this means removing the barriers that lead to exclusion so that everyone has an equal opportunity to take part. UNICEF (2010: 1) states that the true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to all its children by protecting them during their vital, vulnerable years of growth and ensuring their health and safety; material security; education and socialisation; and sense of being loved, valued and included. Children who face prejudice through personal, structural or institutional discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, gender, ability or family circumstances may suffer physical or mental harm. Legislation goes some way towards addressing inequalities by setting out the parameters designed to help everyone participate in society irrespective of birth or background. However, legislation is not enough on its own and professionals need to understand how discrimination operates in practice. This chapter sets out to explore how inclusion can be promoted in early years provision.
Jennifer Willan

13. Health and well-being

Abstract
International research suggests that early childhood is a crucial time for establishing health and well-being if children are to enjoy a fulfilling childhood and a satisfying adulthood. Health and well-being begins in the womb, where the mother’s good physical and mental health offers the best conditions for a good start to her child’s life. Children’s experiences in the first eight years of life influence their ability to make the most of their opportunities and have an effect on future generations when children grow up to become parents themselves. Individual health and well-being does not exist in isolation; it is bound holistically to structures of self, family, community and the state. This chapter explores some of the factors that affect health and well-being and indicates some ways in which practitioners can help to provide healthy, positive environments where young children can flourish. The state of the world’s children Only 15 per cent of the world’s 1.5 billion children live in rich countries. Around the globe, child mortality is highest where children live in ‘absolute’ poverty, without access to regular food, clean water, sanitation and healthcare. In 2015, nearly 4.5 million children under the age of five died, three quarters of them from preventable causes such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, neonatal sepsis, pre-term delivery, malaria and birth-related asphyxia (WHO, 2015).
Jennifer Willan

The Children’s Workforce: Professional Practice

Frontmatter

14. Professional practice for early childhood

Abstract
Children and young people are our future and there are great rewards in being part of the workforce that inspires the next generation. Early childhood has been the Cinderella among services because looking after young children was once seen as something that came naturally and required no training beyond being kind and ‘motherly’. It is now recognised that early childhood is a complex area requiring professional expertise – both academic and practical. This chapter provides an account of the pathways available on the journey from student to early years professional and some of the challenges of working in an environment that combines education, health and social care. Becoming a professional in early childhood services If you are reading this chapter, you will probably be taking one of the many courses designed to prepare you for work in children’s education, health or social care. What qualities do professionals in early years need? In Unwin and Hogg’s book Social work with children and families (2012), the authors provide a list of desirable attributes for professionals in children’s services. These include being aware of self and others aware of impact of behaviour on others aware of strengths and weaknesses clear about motivation for being in the job willing to invest in children others might give up on
Jennifer Willan

15. Taking the lead in early years professional practice

Abstract
Fashions in leadership come and go, and in the past leadership styles were often based on models deriving from the spheres of politics, business and the military, with their emphasis on orders, discipline and hierarchy. For many, these models sit uneasily with the principles of equality and shared responsibility that underpin work in the early years and can make it difficult to implement concepts like ‘listening to the voice of the child’, ‘consulting parents’ and ‘collaborating in multidisciplinary teams’. Research shows that effective leadership in early years has a powerful influence on the quality of care and ultimately affects children’s life chances quality (Siraj-Blatchford & Manni, 2006; Moyles, 2006). In the past, many early years professionals had leadership thrust upon them; they found themselves ‘leading’ not by choice but through circumstance, stepping into the role because no one else was available and with little or no formal training in leadership. More recently, leadership has become an important area in children’s studies at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and leadership courses provided by the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) have been developed to address the theory and practice of leadership for practitioners in multi-agency environments for children’s services. Calls for leadership training in children’s services came in the wake of Lord Laming’s report into the death of Victoria Climbié (2003) and the Audit Commission’s 2003 inquiry into public governance (Leeson, 2015).
Jennifer Willan

Research in Early Childhood: Seeing Children Differently

Frontmatter

16. Understanding young children through observation and assessment

Abstract
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework requires all early years settings to observe and assess children’s progress regularly and to share the information with parents. Observation means noticing what children say, what they understand and what they can do, while assessment involves reflecting on the information gathered – thinking about the child’s development and then planning activities and support to help them move forward. Observing children is fun and full of surprises! Watching them at play or at work or talking to them about what they are doing helps to evaluate their strengths and needs assess the suitability of the activities and resources you are providing plan tailor-made provision for the future monitor progress and development. Good observational records form the basis for providing the right help and support in all childcare services – education, social care, youth justice and health. Over time the records can be used to monitor longer-term trajectories or to alert practitioners to unexpected changes that may indicate cause for concern. Most courses in Early Childhood Studies require students to produce child observations or a longer child study to practise and hone their skills of observation. No matter which branch of children’s services you specialise in, you will need at some point to write an observation or assessment of a child – it may be a summary of his or her developmental progress, an assessment designed to measure specific competencies or perhaps an assessment for the family courts.
Jennifer Willan

17. Doing early childhood research

Abstract
Most early childhood courses will have a research element, usually in the form of a final year dissertation. Research skills are important not just for writing a dissertation but also for reading and assessing journal articles, for critically analysing policy documents and for producing reports as part of your professional work with children. Doing research for the first time is quite a challenge, but it can be exciting and fulfilling. Even with limited time and resources, you can do interesting and original work, exploring children’s worlds and producing evidence about how children experience their lives in the changing contexts of childcare policies and practice. There are many excellent books available about how to conduct research projects in the social sciences, including several written specifically with early childhood in mind. This chapter aims to provide a brief introduction to research skills to give you the confidence to get started on choosing your topic, doing your literature search and designing your study. It gives some pointers on how to present results and analyse findings and how to present the final draft of a report or dissertation. What do we mean by research? In a sense we are all researchers. We all (adults and children alike) gather information and make observations and build theories as part of our day-to-day interactions as we construct the world view that determines how we behave and what we do. The distinction between this implicit research and the more explicit research we need for our professional lives is one of degree.
Jennifer Willan
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