Is infant belonging observable? A path through the maze

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This article evaluates the concept of infant ‘belonging’, central to several national curricula for early childhood education and care. Here, the authors focus on Australia’s Early Years Learning Framework. Four different meanings attach to ‘belonging’ in the Early Years Learning Framework, the primary being sociopolitical. However, ‘a sense of belonging’ is also proposed as something that should be observable and demonstrable in infants and toddlers – such demonstration being held up as one of the keys to quality outcomes in early childhood education and care. The Early Years Learning Framework endows belonging with two contrasting meanings when applied to infants. The first, the authors call ‘marked belonging’, and it refers to the infant’s exclusion from or inclusion in defined groups of others. The second, the authors provisionally call ‘unmarked’ belonging. Differences between these two meanings of infant belonging are explored by describing two contrasting observational vignettes from video recordings of infants in early childhood education and care. The authors conclude that ‘belonging’ is not a helpful way to refer to, or empirically demonstrate, an infant’s mundane comfort or ‘unmarked’ agentive ease in shared early childhood education and care settings. A better way to conceptualise and research this would be through the prism of infants’ proven capacity to participate in groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)404-416
Number of pages13
JournalContemporary Issues in Early Childhood
Issue number4
Early online date05 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2018


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