33 SES 13 A, A Review of Research Studies on Gender Issues
International studies related to men working in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) as research field has aroused interest under the past two decades. In both academic and policy discussions, men’s relations to children have often been reduced to the issues of fatherhood, paternity and parental leave, and also fathers’ rights post-separation and divorce (Hearn & Pringle, 2006). Questions about relationship between men, care and children in educational institutions gained forces in different European countries after introducing political reforms concerning gender equality. For example, Sweden implemented short-terms projects to engage more men in professions which involved care work under 1970 (Wernersson, 2016).
When these discussions come to ECEC, the international research on male practitioners has as starting point the question about men as minority group in ECEC (Rohrmann & Brody, 2015). Therefore, other questions can come up depending on which focus the research has. Aiming to get knowledge about what different research on men in ECEC purposes to study and which method for data collection is most used by them, this paper presents an examination of 50 peer-reviewed articles. At the same time, I sought to analyze which gaps on research on men in ECEC can be found and discussed based on these studies. A manifest content analysis was used as method in order to be able to sort, categorize and interpretate the collected data (Bengtsson, 2016). This examination contributes to have an overview of which main questions have been researched and which other ones should possibly be studied when researching on men in ECEC.
A worldwide pattern indicates that there is a low number of men who are working in ECEC (Brody, 2015; Koch & Farquhar, 2015; Peeters, et. al, 2015). Taking the total amount of the ECEC workforce, 1-4% of that corresponds to male practitioners, having Norway, Turkey and Denmark the highest percentages, but not higher than 10%. During the last decades several European countries, as such Belgium, Sweden, Norway and UK, created national plans aiming to encourage men to work in ECEC. These projects had gender equality as main argument which aimed to increase the number of male practitioners, by seeking to challenge traditional gender norms associated to care work within the ECEC (Peeters, 2013). Such initiatives were even highlighted in the report “Good Practices for Good Jobs in ECEC” launched by OECD (2019) which showed, for example, Norway that had a national target to increase the number of men working in ECEC by 20%. Despite all efforts to increase the number of men in the Norwegian ECEC, in 2015 the male workforce corresponded to an average rate of 10%.
Previous European and international research studied the benefits of having mixed-gender teams in ECEC (Moosa & Bhana, 2020; Warin, 2018). They showed that men engaging in care work would be a way to deconstructing traditional forms of masculinities, contributing to the gender equality, then benefiting the society as whole. At the same time, the insertion of men in work that involves care of children could be a way to break a segregated labor market by deconstructing gender stereotypes in some professions, specially within ECEC. In a long term, the presence of men in ECEC could also benefit children when they see that care and teach are not associated to a single biological sex. However, this presented study is not focusing on research about men in ECEC based on essentialist presumptions by arguing that men and women would contribute differently when working with children. Thus, it understands gender and man as social categories which are constructed and deconstructed in performative processes (Butler, 1990).
In order to proceed with the examination, the selection of peer-reviewed articles was done through a systematic search in two different databases: SCOPUS and ERIC ProQuest by choosing the keywords “men” AND “Early Childhood Education” and a date rage from January 2000 to December 2020. SCOPUS showed 468 results while ERIC ProQuest 639. After the search I read the titles and abstracts of several articles in order to see if they were relevant in relation to the studied object, thus men working in ECEC. English was the published language of these articles; however, several studies were also conducted in non-English speaking countries in Europe, as such Sweden, Turkey, Germany and Austria and outside Europe as China and Israel. When the selection of the 50 articles was completed, I followed some steps which are included in a manifest content analysis: the decontextualization, the recontextualization, the categorization, and the compilation (Bengtsson, 2016). I also used an excel table as tool to document and report the analysis process. In the decontextualization phase, I wrote down the title of each article, its aim/purpose, research questions and the method used in each study. In the second step, recontextualizing, I read all the content which was written under the process of decontextualization in order to make a short summary of the main purposes and methods. Under the categorization process, I sought to establish categories based on common patterns found in the articles’ content which was related to its purposes and methods. For example, in an “interview study which aimed to understand the differences between male and female practitioners in play situations with children”, thus a category was created as follows: “comparison between male and female practitioners through interviews”. In the compilation step, I listed the categories and created some common themes seeking to find a relation between them in order to be able to make a further analysis which would lead to a discussion. Under the last step in the manifest analysis, I analyzed the themes without searching for hidden meanings or using a specific theoretical approach (Bengtsson, 2016). Instead of that I discussed the results closed to the direct sentences from the articles aiming to find possible gaps in the research about men in ECEC.
The results indicate that most of the research on men in ECEC are based on qualitative interviews and quantitative surveys with practitioners and also with students in educational training programmes. Observation as method was used in a very few studies when focus was on the interaction between practitioners and children. Regarding its purposes, there is a large number of studies which aim to seek understanding on how male and female practitioners see upon the presence of men working in ECEC, mostly related to which challenges and expectations male practitioners could meet by entering a field which traditionally has been occupied by women. Other articles seek to compare the work between men and women. Other studies analyse the gender impact on children’s gender construction in relation to male practitioners and mixed-gender teams in ECEC. The examination of the studies contributes to understand the expectations, possibilities and challenges that male practitioners can meet when working in ECEC. However, the lack of observational studies makes it difficult to get a broader understanding about the pedagogical implications on children’s learning and developing and on their gender construction in relation to the question about gender balance among practitioners in ECEC. Thus, the results suggest that it is needed to have more studies based on observations, also including interviews as method, aiming to understand how the pedagogical work in the ECEC is carried out in practice. At the same time, studies with observation as method can look upon the gender impact on the everyday practice when mix-gender teams are working together in groups of children. Thereby, such studies can also contribute to understanding on how other factors can affect the pedagogical work in ECEC, taking into account different discourses on how social, cultural and physical environments are constructed in ECEC.
Bengtsson, M. (2016). How to plan and perform a qualitative study using content analysis. NursingPlus Open, 2, 8–14. Brody, D. L. (2015). The construction of masculine identity among men who work with young children, an international perspective. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal: Gender Balance in the ECEC Work Force, 23(3), 351-361. Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge. Hearn, J. & Pringle, K. (2006). Men, masculinities and children: Some European perspectives. Critical Social Policy, 26(2), 365-389. Koch, B. & Farquhar, S. (2015). Breaking through the glass doors: Men working in early childhood education and care with particular reference to research and experience in Austria and New Zealand. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 23(3), 380-391. Moosa, S., & Bhana, D. (2020). Masculinity as care: Men can teach young children in the early years. Early Years, 40(1), 52-66. OECD (2019). Good Practice for Good Jobs in Early Childhood Education and Care, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/64562be6-en. Peeters, J. (2013). Can research realise a bit of utopia? The impact of action research on the policy of childcare in Flanders. Early Years, 33(3), 318-330. Peeters, J., Rohrmann, T., & Emilsen, K. (2015). Gender balance in ECEC: Why is there so little progress? European Early Childhood Education Research Journal: Gender Balance in the ECEC Work Force, 23(3), 302-314. Warin, J. (2018). Men in Early Childhood Education and Care. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Wernersson, I. (2016). In Brownhill, S., Warin, J., & Wernersson, I (Eds.), Men, masculinities and teaching in early childhood education: International perspectives on gender and care (p. 13-25). Taylor and Francis.
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