Children's developing identity

Cooper, Victoria (2014). Children's developing identity. In: Reed, Michael and Rosie, Walker eds. A Critical Companion to Early Childhood. London: Sage, pp. 281–296.



If practitioners are to support children’s needs they need insight not just into who children are, but also into who they could or wish to be. Understanding children’s identities however is not straightforward and presents a series of challenges.

Research narratives exploring identity have traditionally been ‘told’ stories, using adult words and interpretations which may potentially overlook the creative and unique ways in which children impart messages about their emerging sense of self.

This chapter shares the findings from a participatory study designed to explore children’s identity. The findings illustrate ‘picture making’, through art and photography as a method which facilitates reflective time and space within the research process and encourages children to talk about different aspects of self. These findings are discussed in relation to early childhood professional practice and demonstrate how listening to children using multi-modal instruments provide opportunities for practitioners to consider the diversity of identity development across home and school contexts and enable children to share their views.

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