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Childcare in uncaring times: emotional processes in a nursery and their political context

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This article reports on a study that uses the method of infant observation to investigate emotional processes among young children and their professional carers in a nursery for 0- to three-year-olds. The article focuses on the effects of political regulations and reforms in the area of public daycare, which have a deep impact on the emotional lives of both children and their carers. First, a dominant political and regulatory language, in which learning is the dominant concept, plays the role of making the basic emotional needs of both children and carers invisible. In this way, some of the most obvious questions and concerns about young children and their care needs are rendered collectively unconscious. Second, decades of spending reductions (‘effectivisation’) in the field of public daycare have put an increased pressure on both carers and children, who are forced to try to have their fundamental needs met in a situation of an historically high rate of children per staff member. Third, the article points to the effects of a culture of quality control through evaluation and assessment, which the paradigm of New Public Management has promoted in the field of daycare. This culture enhances persecutory anxieties among the staff, which run counter to the containment and care that they need in order to care well for the children. Finally, it is argued that the field of public daycare should be informed by a paradigm that is oriented towards the care needs of both children and their professional carers.
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Keywords: countertransference; daycare; infant observation; neoliberal; nurseries

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Roskilde University, Denmark

Publication date: October 2020

This article was made available online on September 17, 2020 as a Fast Track article with title: "Childcare in uncaring times: emotional processes in a nursery and their political context".

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  • The Journal of Psychosocial Studies publishes work that falls within the broad transdisciplinary area of Psychosocial Studies, defined by a commitment to understanding the significance of the links between internal and external worlds.

    Psychosocial Studies draws on a range of disciplines to explore the interactive relationships between self, culture and society. Whilst often focusing on affect and emotion it explores the complexities of subjectivity and experience as it is lived and shaped in different contexts and settings. This approach is defined by a commitment to exploration of the links between the internal and external worlds; both the deeply personal and profoundly social.

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