Discovering Ideological Codes in the Professional Work of Daycare Personnel

Friday, July 18, 2014: 8:45 AM
Room: 424
Oral Presentation
Ann Christin NILSEN , Sociology and social work, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway
During the last decades there has been a tremendous growth in the enrolment rates in daycare centers in Norway to the extent that 96% of all children attend daycare centers before they reach school age. Thus, daycare has become an important socialization arena, supplementary to parents, and a place where the demarcation line between ‘the private’ and ‘the public’ is rendered indistinct. The private becomes public when problems associated with the private sphere, for example behavioral disorder, child neglect etc., become a public responsibility. Simultaneously the public is private when normative understandings of what is expected and accepted are transformed into public standards and definitions of ‘the good’ contributing to inform and shape parental socialization goals and practices, and the daycare personnel’s appreciation of parental practices and their gaze on the children. Alongside the increase in daycare centers there has been a demand for increased professionalization of the sector, which in general is dominated by personnel lacking formal education. Important in this respect is early intervention: the obligation of daycare personnel to intervene when a child does not develop adequately or has a worrying home environment. The development of standardized tools aimed at mapping children’s cognitive and emotional skills are increasingly being introduced to sort out children who are in need of extra concern. However, daycare personnel report to rely on their own embodied sensitivity in regard to concern for children. In this intersection between standardized mapping and personal ‘stomach feeling’, some distinct ideological codes come into play. What constitutes ‘normality’? Is normality absolute, or are there different definitions for different children? And how is normality and abnormality (not) spoken of? The paper addresses these questions in relation to the concepts of ‘ideological codes’ and ‘ruling relations’.