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.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Psycho-Social Studies
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)263-276
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • psychosocial research
  • countertransference
  • nursery
  • daycare
  • neoliberalism
  • infant observation

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