Men in Early Childhood: A Moral Panic? A research report from a UK University
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Significant changes in the role fathers play in their children’s care alongside the increased interest shown by teenage boys in working with young children has so far resulted in no noticeable increase in the numbers of men working in Early Childhood in the UK. Previous research has identified how the gendered nature of this workforce presents significant barriers to men’s involvement combined with an increasingly dogmatic media discourse which represents men solely as a threat to young children. The research reported in this paper explored the experiences of a group of undergraduate male students in their pursuit of a career working with young children and to what degree the dynamics of being othered had impacted them. It also sought to consider the rhetoric and reality of recent UK government attempts to address the imbalance in the Early Childhood workforce. Thirteen male students from two undergraduate programmes at a UK University were interviewed for this study. The research data identified a number of risk factors which present barriers to men’s involvement in Early Childhood such as gender stereotyping, marginalisation or ‘othering’ of men and negative media discourses. It also identified potential protective factors which enable men’s involvement such as supportive family and friends, male role-models and a sense of social responsibility. Broader reflections also identified the significant difference between the UK government rhetoric in support of increasing men’s participation in Early Childhood and the reality of the active indifference shown to challenging the barriers to participation driven by political motives which has effectively generated a new ‘moral panic’ around men working with young children.
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