Characterising the principles of Professional Love in early childhood care and education

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Framed as an extension of Noddings’ notion of the ‘ethic of care,’ the paper sets out an argument about ‘Professional Love’ as both a term to comprehend the reciprocal pedagogic relationship which develops in positive interactions between primary caregiver, child and parent and as a core normative component of early years educational discourse; the paper grounds this conceptualisation of Professional Love in attachment theory (both its empirical validity and its sociological shortcomings); it then posits the dynamic of child-parent-practitioner love as a Triangle of Love which is essentially complementary to the parent/child relationship as opposed to representing any risk or threat to parents’ relationships with their children. The paper examines the work of theorists of care who have been particularly influential in developing the notion of Professional Love, and it considers the work of interdisciplinary scholars whose challenges to notions of love and care help problematise and clarify Professional Love beyond romanticised or other contextually inappropriate forms of love. The paper is intended as a provocative and explorative piece of critical enquiry; it highlights the prevalent devaluation of care/love in policy making and posits a semi-operationalisable prospectus for cultivating Professional Love in early childhood settings. Consistent with the author’s editorial foreword, tensions between practitioner, child and parent, as well as internal encumbrances placed on practitioners to develop Professional Love in the absence of policymaker support, emerge as recurring themes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-141
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Early Years Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in International Journal of Early Years Education on 11/04/2018, available online:


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