Power and Emotion in Infant-Toddler Day Care

By Robin Lynn Leavitt

Subjects: Early Childhood Studies
Series: SUNY series, Early Childhood Education: Inquiries and Insights
Paperback : 9780791418864, 150 pages, July 1994
Hardcover : 9780791418857, 150 pages, July 1994

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Table of contents


1. Introduction

Problematic Experience, Power, and Emotion
Methodological Specifics
Research on Infant Day Care

2. Theoretical and Philosophical Perspective

Hermeneutic, Existential Phenomenology
Symbolic Interactionism
Critical Theory

3. Power

Spatial Regime
Disciplinary Time
Caregiver Power/Children's Play
Extractive Versus Development Power
A Day in the Life of a Toddler
Children's Place in the Social World of Day Care

4. Emotion

Objectification and Seriality
Child Care as Emotional Labor
Child Care as Alienated Labor
Unsurpassable Childhoods

5. Emotionally Responsive, Empowering Child Care

The Concept of Responsive Caregiving
The Child in Child Care
Images of Emotionally Responsive, Empowering Caregiving
The Center as a Setting for Responsive Care

6. Infant-Toddler Day Care: Review, Reflections, and Directions


Appendix: The Credibility of Interpretive Studies



A provocative ethnography of the lived experiences of infants and toddlers in day care centers.


Robin Lynn Leavitt presents in a provocative ethnography the lived experiences of infants and toddlers in day care centers. This text speaks to researchers and instructors interested in infancy, early childhood socialization, child care, and interpretive research. Leavitt's original application of multiple theoretical perspectives—interpretive, interactionist, critical, feminist, and postmodern— yields powerful insights into the problematic emotional experiences and relations between infants and their caregivers.

The day care center is described as an institution that imposes a temporal and spatial regime on the lives of infants and toddlers. Vivid descriptions illustrate how caregivers create problematic situations for the children as they exercise unyielding power in the rigid management and control of the daily routines and play of children. As Leavitt documents the experiences of our youngest children, she engages in a philosophical exploration of the meanings of emotionally responsive, empowering care in group settings. Her analysis points to the need to care for caregivers, and for caregiving to become a self-reflective activity.

Robin Lynn Leavitt is in the Department of Home Economics at the University of Illinois. She is co-author of Toddler Day Care: A Guide to Responsive Caregiving.


"The book is quite powerful. I couldn't put it down! I read it every chance I got. I love the way it brings together several theories, real examples, and frank discussion to paint a picture of life for toddlers in child care. We have not examined the daily lives of children in care closely enough. The issues raised here are vital to healthy development. " — Kimberlee Whaley, Ohio State University, Laboratory for Child and Family Studies