Gender beliefs and embedded gendered values in preschool

Anette Emilson, Anne-Mari Folkesson, Ingeborg Moqvist Lindberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this study is to explore practitioners’ gender beliefs and how gendered values are embedded in Swedish preschool practice. The research question is: What beliefs about gender and the associated values, can be identified in practitioners’ talk when they discuss gender issues? The study is informed by Bronwyn Davies’ theoretical ideas that gender is socially constructed and her concepts of category maintenance and transgression are discussed. Data were analysed from 10 semi-structured group interviews with practitioners in eight Swedish preschools. A content analysis was conducted that identified two main categories of beliefs, duality and gender-neutral beliefs. Primarily, the practitioners believed in gender neutrality whereby preschool is an arena in which traditional gendered behaviour are not promoted. However, value dilemmas embedded in the practitioners’ gender beliefs also emerged. One dilemma concerned ideas that gender is primarily a social construction versus ideas that gender is determined by biology. Another dilemma was related to the implementation of curriculum goals whereby, on the one hand, practitioners struggled to influence children not to subscribe to gendered stereotypes and to promote gender equality and, on the other hand, to take the child’s perspective into account but work to influence non-gendered participation. Additionally, while boys were encouraged to embrace femininity, girls were paradoxically encouraged to reject femininity. It remains important to research values about gender in preschool education and to increase practitioners’ awareness of their gendered practices in classrooms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Early Childhood
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Pedagogy (50301)


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