Touch cultures, bodily integrity and embodied socialization in preschools

Preschool children sitting in a row on a bench out in the sun.

The project aims to further understanding of touch cultures, bodily integrity and bodily socialization in Swedish preschools by examining children’s and educators’ embodied practices and experiences of physical contact in everyday interactions

Physical contact and embodied practices constitute a prevalent feature of young children’s lives in early childhood institutions. Physical interaction between children and educators is, however, a complex issue. On the one hand, touch has fundamental importance for children’s socio-emotional development, behavioral and emotion regulation. On the other hand, the societal discourses put the focus on the risks of abusive touch and are influential in informing the professional views and debates over appropriate educational policy and practice.

Up to date, there is little knowledge about what characterizes young children’s experiences of physical contact with educators and with peers, including how touch is used by children of various ages and gender themselves. To be able to inform the ongoing debate and support educators’ professional practices regarding i) educators’ physical engagement with children, and ii) children’s physical engagement with educators and in peer groups, greater attention needs to be directed toward functions and the developmental nature of children’s physical interactions with others. The observational and interview studies will address children’s and educators’ experiences and perspectives on physical contact, touch cultures and bodily integrity in preschools.

The project is funded by VR, grant 2021-2025.
Project title: Touch cultures, bodily integrity and embodied socialization in preschools: Children’s and educators’ perspectives on physical contact.

Research Group