How do parents position themselves and early childhood practitioners in their relationships to support children’s development and learning?

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctorate in Education


In spite of research evidence highlighting the importance of effective collaboration between parents and early childhood practitioners, many practitioners find interactions with parents challenging. To help practitioners, students and trainees understand the parental perspective and build effective relationships, this research explored parents’ views of their relationship with early childhood practitioners and of their respective roles and responsibilities. A sequential mixed methods research design was used to gain an overview of parents’ perceptions and to explore in depth parents’ reasoning for their allocation of roles, responsibilities and positionings. The first stage consisted of 97 questionnaires collecting predominantly quantitative data, while the second stage comprised interviews with eleven parents. The quantitative data was analysed with the help of non-parametric statistical tests, and thematic analysis was adopted for the qualitative data. Positioning theory (Langenhove & Harré, 1999), and in particular prepositioning and accountive positioning, provided the theoretical framework for the exploration of parents’ preconceptions and lived experiences because of its attention to taken-for-granted assumptions and to reasoning and sense-making. The findings indicated that parents positioned themselves as competent and responsible agents in their children’s development and learning, and led to new insights into how parents enact their responsibility to their children in the context of early childhood settings. Parents identified ‘caring’ as the main component of early childhood professionalism and wanted their interactions with practitioners to incorporate collaboration, mutuality and shared responsibility for children’s development and learning. Consequently, the new concept of the ‘caring partnership’ emerged as parents’ preferred relationship with their children’s practitioners. The analysis of parents’ narratives revealed that parents used the same dimensions which practitioners had identified in earlier research for their professionalism in practitioner-parent interactions (relationality, focus and agency) while also adding one new dimension (pedagogy). The set of dimensions provides a useful tool to highlight differences inpractitioner and parent perceptions, and the concept of the ‘caring partnership’ offers a framework for the collaboration between practitioners and parents.
Date of Award1 Oct 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorJenny Driscoll (Supervisor) & Jill Hohenstein (Supervisor)

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