Theorizing Small Children’s Conduct of Everyday Life.

Maja Røn Larsen, Anja Hvidtfeldt Stanek

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The aim of this paper is to relate the concept conduct of everyday life to small children (ages 0 to 3 years). The paper will contribute to the understanding of small children’s common and shared lives in day care or public nursery, as well as their developmental and social learning processes in the transition between home and societal institutions. We present an ongoing two-year ethnographic study during which, we do participatory observations of a group of children in their transitions between home and nursery or day care. Starting out when each child is 12months we follow them in- and across their societal settings. Furthermore, we conduct interviews with the adults in the child’s various societal settings.
We work within a theoretical framework developed in German-Danish critical psychology, as well as the ethnographic tradition deriving from Jean Lave (Dreier, 2008; Holzkamp, 2013, in press; Lave, 2011). We thus approach the empirical and theoretical challenge related to the study of small children’s every day life through analysis of the dialectic relation of the small child as a subject with agency, participating in societal contexts in which the child develops and learns.
Accordingly, we argue that children develop their conduct of everyday life though play and learning in interconnected social practices among peers, parents and professionals. These activities take place in- and across various societal settings, such as home and institutional arrangements, e.g. nursery or day care. We analyse small children’s institutionalised lives from the point of view of the children as subjects. We intend to look from the position of the children, and out in the everyday life, observing: What seems to be of relevance to the children in relation to them developing, learning and conducting their everyday life?
Nordic countries are characterised by a high rate of small children attending day care – in Denmark 18 % of children less than a year and 86 % one-to-three year-olds attend either day care or nursery (Haagensen, 2011). In public nurseries a group of trained educators take care of groups of 12-14 children. Alternatively, small children can attend day care in private homes, where one adult takes care of 3-5 children.
Even though children in Denmark and other Nordic countries have lived their everyday lives across home and nursery or day care for decades, we need more knowledge about the specific meanings of these societal arrangements and how the youngest children develop their conduct of everyday life in the transitions across home and institutional arrangements as nursery or day care (Haavind, 2011).

Discussion Theme: Debates on the social-historical condition of Psychology - On the link between the social and the psychological in relation to human development

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Holzkamp, K. (2013, in press). Understanding the Individuals' Grounds for Action in Their Everyday Conduct of Life. In U. Osterkamp & E. Schraube (Eds.), Psychology from the Standpoint of the Subject. Writings of Klaus Holzkamp. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Haagensen, K. M. (Ed.). (2011). Nordic Statistical Yearbook (Vol. 49). Nord: Statistics Denmark.
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Lave, J. (2011). Apprenticeship in Critical Ethnographic Practice: The Universtity of Chicago Press.
Osterkamp, U., & Schraube, E. (Eds.). (2013, in press). Psychology from the Standpoint of the Subject. Writings of Klaus Holzkamp - Critical Theory and Practice in Psychology and the Human Sciences. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Translated title of the contributionTeoriudvikling omkring småbørns livsførelse
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2013
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Event15th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Theoretical Psychology: Dialogue and Debate in the making of Theoretical Psychology - Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile & Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Santiago, Chile
Duration: 3 May 20137 May 2013


Conference15th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Theoretical Psychology
LocationPontificia Universidad Católica de Chile & Universidad Alberto Hurtado
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