The peer social world of infants and toddlers during transition into early childcare settings
AbstractOver last few decades, there has been a rapid increase in children, particularly thoseunder two years old, participating in early childcare (ECE) services in New Zealand. At thesame time, there is a dearth of research examining supporting young children under the age oftwo in their first ECE experiences. Of this body of literature, most have examined the role ofthe adults, with an emphasis on primary caregiver systems. Despite the fact that children ofthis age engage in dynamic relationships with peers, the significance of peer relationships tochildren’s transition has been largely ignored.
The present thesis aims to address this gap by inquiring into the strategies thattransitioning children use to affiliate with the peer group, and in what ways those peerscontribute to transitioning children’s sense of togetherness in the social group. A qualitativeinquiry was undertaken wherein video footage and observations were recorded of two veryyoung children transitioning into an ECE; with their interactions with peers being observedespecially. The children’s teacher was also interviewed. The findings were interpretedthrough a symbolic interactionist lens and themes were coded iteratively. Although the datawere mostly treated qualitatively, some themes are presented using descriptive statistics.
The findings showed that the two transitioning children were intrinsically interested intheir peers. They were motivated to participate in peer-related activities by using specificstrategies such as passing toys, showing humour, being close, and making physical contact.
However, at times the peer group resisted these two newcomers and their ‘initial entry’ intothe group. The transitioning children demonstrated strong resilience and perseverance. The process of peer rejection, peer acceptance, and social negotiation went in a circular formrather than in time order. In other words, there was no clear linear trajectory towards theiracceptance into the peer group. Even when others had begun to interact with the transitioningchildren, there were still instances of rejection.
In addition, this present thesis discusses some useful strategies for practitioners tofacilitate a smooth and positive transition experience for infants and toddlers with supportfrom social peers. It is my hope that practitioners can benefit from this study.