Bångstyriga barn: Makt, normer och delaktighet i förskolan.

Dolk, K.
Ph.d.-afhandling. Stockholms universitet, Stockholm.


The purpose of this study is to examine the tensions and conflicts arising in the relationship between children and adults in connection work by Swedish daycare centres (förskola) on values, in which they actively and consciously work on improving equality, equal rights and participation in the daycare centre. The study focusses on power, norms, age, involvement and resistance, and on how these are expressed in the relationship between the child and the adult.


The study shows that ambitions for equal rights and equality are often difficult for early childhood educators to realise. Early childhood educators experience that the pedagogical methodologies aimed directly at supporting equal rights and equal involvement do not work well in practice. This is expressed e.g. by a local children’s council initiative in which the idea is that children can express their opinion about previous and future activities and routines.

The study shows that although the idea is that the agenda is t o be set by the children, in practice the suggestions and attitudes of the early childhood educators those that are followed. Therefore, the power relation between the child and the adult is manifested instead of blurred. The early childhood educators are aware of this aspect, but they find it difficult to make it work differently, as otherwise circle time is dominated by disorder and lack of focus. The early childhood educators generally feel unsure about what exactly equal rights, equality and participation actually mean. For example, they are worried that the children will decide so many things that pedagogical work is impeded. It was important to the early childhood educators to have a common and consistent approach to different pedagogical situations and routines. However, the study points out that this common approach can cause the interaction between the child and the adult to be predetermined, and therefore there is not much leeway for improvisation and untraditional solutions. Activities therefore become more controlled by adults than intended.

The study concludes that the children's resistance and "wrong" reaction to the norms and values can lead the staff to re-think their perception of democracy at the daycare centres. Norms and values are often difficult to discover for early childhood educators, but the children's break with these can help increase focus on what is perceived by early childhood educators as matters of course. The children's resistance, for example as described in the local children’s council, can be viewed as a demand for democratic relationships and activities in the institution which challenge and transgress established common approaches, routines and pedagogical methodologies.


The data material is based on field observations from one Swedish daycare centre (förskola), in which the early childhood educators work with gender pedagogy, equal treatment and the rights of the child. The institution has 16 children who at the beginning of the data collection were aged between 14 months and 5 years. However, the study focusses on children aged 3-5 years and covered 11 children, six of whom were girls and five were boys. The field work took place over a period of one year, in which the researcher observed daily activities at the institution. Focus was particularly on activities controlled by adults. Everyday life at the institution has been documented through field notes, photos, sound recordings and video footage as well as the institution's own records of activities and management documents. In addition, the researcher held several meetings with the early childhood educators at which they discussed and questioned the children's participation possibilities. The purpose of these meetings was to develop and improve the pedagogical practice. The meetings had an action research approach. At the end, eight children aged 3-6 years were interviewed.


Dolk, K. (2013). Bångstyriga barn: Makt, normer och delaktighet i förskolan. Ph.d.-afhandling. Stockholms universitet, Stockholm.

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