Date of Award

1-1-1996

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Education

First Advisor

Dawn Butterworth

Abstract

This study investigates how 4/5 year old children, from one preschool centre, and their parents perceive gender relations in our gendered society. By observing children's interactions in a preschool setting, and discussing these interactions with the children involved, the discourses and discursive practices operating in the gender regime of this setting are uncovered. The characteristics of children's gender relations in this setting are that asymmetrical relationships are prevalent; masculine and feminine storylines are common along with shared storylines; masculinise hegemonic discourses are dominant although many girls and boys cross the gender divide; some children see the other sex/gender as ‘foreign’ and children's subjectivities fluctuate in interactions. Using a feminist poststructuralist analysis of the discourses dominant in this setting, indicators for change in this preschool setting are uncovered. Although male/female dualism is dominant and obvious, many opportunities for change are available through deconstruction of these discourses with and by the children. Through the use of a questionnaire and follow up interviews, parents' perspectives on the gender relations in the gender regime of the home setting are established. Parents' perspectives on gender relations in this setting are predominantly associated with subordinate ungendered discourses and discursive practices of our society. However, parents' perspectives on their children's beliefs and attitudes imply that the children themselves have gendered ideas about their relationships with their peers. Through the use of a feminist poststructuralist analysis of the discourses dominant in this setting, indicators for change in the home setting are established. Parental concern with regard to their children's gendered ideas indicates that opportunities for change are available through parent/teacher partnerships. By combining the findings of both these investigations, a further step toward gender justice for this group of 4/5 year old children may be taken.

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