Anglia Ruskin University
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Nurturing prosocial development in very young children: a multiple case study in early childhood settings

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posted on 2023-08-30, 18:58 authored by Gemma M. Ryder
This study aims to explore the role of early childhood curricula and pedagogies in promoting and nurturing prosocial behaviours in infant and toddler provision. Research has predominantly explored prosocial behaviours across older age groups. Studies pertaining to prosocial development across the birth to three years age group in formal early childhood settings are limited. This is despite the sector playing an integral role in supporting young children’s social and emotional wellbeing. My research aims to address this gap and provide new insight into early years prosociality. Working within a Deweyan pragmatist paradigm, a multiple-case study approach was adopted across seven early childhood and education settings located in England. Each setting subscribed to different curricula frameworks and pedagogical philosophies. Data was collected through a mix of child-centred observations, semi-structured interviews with practitioners and teachers and analysis of documents and artefacts. These were supported by a reflective journal to document further examples of prosociality through the researcher’s interactions with the children. The findings indicate that curricula and pedagogical approaches provide an array of opportunities for infants and toddlers to demonstrate a diverse range of prosocial behaviours and actions. These are promoted through adult modelling, imitation and early learning experiences. The mixing of age groups and peer relationships are integral to prosocial development, demonstrating how prosociality can enhance and develop children’s agency within a social environment. In conclusion, prosocial behaviours across the birth to three years age group are not separate entities but interlink and diversify into more complex behaviours as children naturally mature. This is informed by social interactions, setting practices and different contexts. Despite prosociality being a poorly understood concept in the settings, it underpins practice and values. Future research exploring how curricula and pedagogical approaches can promote prosocial behaviours within the home environment is recommended.



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