”Mobbing sett med nye øyne”.

Helgesen, M.B.
I: Helgesen, M.B. (red.): Mobbing i barnehagen. Et sosialt fenomen. Universitetsforlaget. 74-91.


This study examines complex and conflict-ridden interactions in a group of girls at a Norwegian preschool ("barnehage"). The purpose is to show how conflicts – and the reason for conflicts – are an expression of the girls' fear of social exclusion.


Results of the observations show that the group of girls is characterised by strong negotiations about the leader position. When the girls gather, the negotiations about who is in charge begin. The leader decides who is allowed in the group, and what to play. Especially two girls fight over the leader role, and the fight often ends in tense situations with conflicts and crying. A third girl, Helle, struggles to be included in the group e.g. by initiating a play activity, but she is rejected by the others. She awaits the situation and, when the opportunity arises, she sneaks to the edge of the group. The tense negotiations in the group have consequences for all the children, but especially for Helle who is positioned fully or partially outside the community.


The study finds that the dynamics of the group of girls are based on social processes that form a relatively rigid pattern. The analysis of observations indicates that the fear of social exclusion simmers in the negotiations about the leader position between two girls, and this negotiation flares up every time the girls meet. The girls find that their positions are threatened, and this activates their fear of exclusion. In order to restore their sense of belonging to the group, the girls try to position Helle outside the group. Helle's position can be viewed as an undignified position, in which she and her vulnerability become increasingly invisible. The other girls attack Helle's vulnerability when they exclude her from the group, and eliminate their own discomfort with this vulnerability by projecting it onto Helle and easing their own distress. When the rejection and exclusion practices are activated and intensified by becoming more frequent and perhaps more aggressive, the girls are on the verge of bullying, as bullying takes place in groups as systematic exclusion of one "member".



The data material is based on participatory observations of children's play at a preschool, at which four 4-year-old girls were monitored during play in the play room. The observations were carried out everyday from 8am to 12 noon over a two-month period. The data material was analysed on the basis of an understanding of bullying as defined by the Danish researcher Dorthe Marie Søndergaard. In this understanding, humans are dependent on belonging to communities, and a fear of social exclusion emerges in humans when their sense of belonging to a community is threatened. Bullying should be understood in this context, as communities are equivalent to negotiation and insecurity about roles. Focusing on rejecting one person, reduces the fear of exclusion for the remaining members of the group, and the sense of belonging to the group is restored.


Helgesen, M.B. (2014). ”Mobbing sett med nye øyne”. I: Helgesen, M.B. (red.): Mobbing i barnehagen. Et sosialt fenomen. Universitetsforlaget. 74-91.

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