Collective and Individual Dimensions in Peer Positioning in Early Childhood Education.

Kultti, A.
Odenbring, Y.
Early Child Development and Care 185(6), 868-882.


The purpose of this study is to examine how children in different age groups create social order and position themselves in here-and-now interactions in preschool. This is done on the basis of the following research questions: (1) How do children position themselves to include or exclude others? (2) How do children of different ages use verbal and bodily actions in their positioning?



The study indicates that children – depending on their age – position themselves differently towards each other through different activities. The study identifies two dimensions of positioning: a collective positioning and an individual positioning. Collective positioning is often expressed verbally by the older children – e.g. by repeating what others have expressed, or by making accusations in front of groups of children. In contrast, younger children use verbal expressions to include other children in the current activity. Individual positioning is when children purposefully position themselves towards 'their own age group'.

The study also finds that bodily actions are important resources in children's positioning – irrespective of age and preschool setting. Silence or not confirming verbally are types of bodily actions used by 2-year-olds as well as 5-year-olds in the three studied preschools.

Finally, the results suggest that positioning is closely connected to children's understanding of institutional norms, and that, from an early age, children are aware of contextualised rules. The children maintain the social order by referring to what is right and what is wrong, and/or by deciding who can participate in an activity. Thus the study indicates that a common

understanding of institutional norms, rules and activities becomes an important tool in creating joint activities. The children also build on existing rules at the preschool in order to influence positions in the interaction.


The data collection builds on video footage from three different preschools. This data was collected in connection with two previous studies, which the article refers to as project A and project B. The data material in project A is based on field work from eight different preschools over a period of six months. Project A observed 2-year-old children's interactions with teachers and peers over a period of six months. Project B was part of a longitudinal study in which a group of 5-year-old children's day-to-day activities at the preschool were observed.


Kultti, A. & Odenbring, Y. (2015). Collective and Individual Dimensions in Peer Positioning in Early Childhood Education. Early Child Development and Care 185(6), 868-882.

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