Barns perspektiver på demokrati i barnehagen.

Pettersvold, M.
Utbildning & demokrati 24(2), 91–109.


The purpose of this study is to gain insight into children's perspectives on democracy in kindergarten, as well as their experiences of democratic participation and co-influence. This study focuses on the oldest children with the intention of exploring whether the children's position in the age hierarchy of the kindergarten affects how they handle and possibly challenge the rules set by adults. The author's work is based on the following overall research questions: (1) How do children perceive democracy and democratic processes? (2) How do children view their options for taking part in democratic decisions? (3) Which children are acknowledged and what are the consequences of this? The last question is in reference to how children's expression of disagreement or resistance to decisions and rules in Kindergartens are received by the adults. Is criticism from children acknowledged and are certain types of resistance more accepted than others?



Overall, the study sheds light on the differences that exist between the interests of children and the interests of adults in the kindergarten. The analysis indicates that children do not feel they can express disagreement or resistance toward unfairness, nor do they feel that their wishes are acknowledged. This is why some children use underhanded strategies to sidestep adult authority. Overall, the author assesses that children want a shared community where different wishes are acknowledged and where children are not subjected to illegitimate decisions or feel disempowered in a manner that undermines their integrity.


The author finds that most of the children seem to be unfamiliar with the term democracy; however, with a little help, they often associate it with deciding something together. The general opinion among the children is that adults make most of the decisions. According to the author, the children's statements show that they differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate decisions. Legitimate decisions are the ones that children see as being fair and well founded. The children accept that adults make the decisions if these decisions are legitimate, but they will not accept the adults’ authority if the decisions are unfair or seen as illegitimate. The author thereby attempts to show that children do not necessarily want to be in charge, but that it is important that those in charge make fair decisions that do not challenge their integrity.


Furthermore, the analysis indicates that children find it difficult to express disagreement or resistance towards decisions made by the adults in the kindergarten. In the absence of influence, children sometimes invent underhand ways of dealing with decisions that they consider illegitimate. For example, some children hide from the adults when they have to do something that they do not want to do. In this context, the author assesses that some forms of resistance are more legitimate than others. Children that are able to identify a form of resistance which fits into the logic of the kindergarten find it easier to circumvent rules than children who are not able to crack the decipher what is acceptable. The children themselves talk about how it is not appropriate to be angry or talk all the time because then they will not be heard.



The study is based on eight group interviews with a total of 41 5-year-old children from four separate kindergartens (barnehager). The interviews took place at the kindergartens and focused on the children's perceptions of democracy and their experiences of co-influence at the kindergarten. To help engage the children in the interview situation and aid them in describing their own experiences, the author brought along a picture of a boy of similar age that the children were supposed to imagine was new in the kindergarten. The study is put into a theoretical context that focuses on concepts such as acknowledgement, power and resistance. The analysis seeks to identify repetitions and contrasts in the children's statements.


Pettersvold, M. (2015). Barns perspektiver på demokrati i barnehagen. Utbildning & demokrati 24(2), 91–109.

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