Infant/toddler day care in high, middle, and low socio-economic settings: an ethnography of dialectical enculturation and linguistic code



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The use of day care for infants and toddlers has increased dramatically during this decade across socio-economic levels. While there is an extreme scarcity of published research in the area of early socialization outside the home, folk wisdom and a growing body of work indicate that various environmental factors encountered in the first years of life may facilitate or hinder a child's later success in school and in other social institutions that give one access to power and material resources. This study is intended as a preliminary description of day care experiences at high, middle, and low socio-economic levels for infants, toddlers, and the adults who care for them. The study has focused on the verbal and non-verbal social interactions that occur among adults and children during socialization, accommodation, and resistance. Bernstein's theory of social transmission through linguistic code along with Berlak and Berlak's theory of dialectical enculturation have been relied upon to explore the following questions: (1) What is the nature of early socialization as it takes place in day care at various socio-economic levels? (2) How is the day-to-day experience of day care negotiated by day care providers, children, and parents? (3) What are the implications for social reproduction of this early socialization process? The study has incorporated the qualitative methodology of ethnography for the collection of data through participant observation, in-depth semi-structured and structured interviews, still photographs, and audio tape recordings. Three day care centers serving children under three years of age were selected using stratified random selection from cells representing high, middle, and low socio-economic status. An additional center was added during data analysis to rule out a null hypothesis and to clarify findings. Data were analyzed by means of domain and taxonomic sequences throughout the study. Socio-economic based variations uncovered in this study may contribute to social reproduction and therefore have important implications for educational intervention and governmental policy making. Findings of this study are limited by the small pool of appropriate centers available for sampling.



Day care centers, Socialization