Multisided touch in preschools' relations - Stories from the everyday life of early childhood and care

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

University of Oulu, Linnanmaa campus, Martti Ahtisaari Hall

Topic of the dissertation

Multisided touch in preschools' relations - Stories from the everyday life of early childhood and care

Doctoral candidate

Master of Arts (Education) Virve Keränen

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Education, Teachers, Teaching and Educational Communities

Subject of study

Education

Opponent

Professor Marja-Leena Laakso, University of Jyväskylä

Custos

Professor Eila Estola, University of Oulu

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To touch or not? From the rules of touch towards loving touch preschools

We all know what touch is and how it feels. We also know that touch evokes all kinds of feelings. In addition, it is known that touch has effect on our well-being and behaviour. Previous research has pointed out that touch has an important role in the communication between human beings. Touch is especially meaningful in the relations between a child and an adult. Despite all this knowledge, less is known about how touch is shaped in the relations of preschools. To this question, the doctoral thesis aims to answer.

The doctoral thesis shows that touch in the relations of preschool is multisided. In the everyday moments of preschool, touch appears as self-evident: educators describe how it would be difficult to work without touching. Also, children observe and explore the world by touching.
Touch also appears as a way to set limits to others. Educators often touch children to control and to guide them, but also children themselves set limits to others by touching in their peer relations.

Also touch itself is limited. There are rules and norms about what kind of touch is appropriate and what is not. In this way the touch cultures of preschools are constructed in relations in which the prior experiences of children and educators as well as the norms and rules of society are intertwined. In addition, the research points out that the cultures of touch are constructed also in relation with the material environment of the preschools. For example, the toys and benches invite to explore and challenge the ways of touch.

When in public discussions touch is discussed mainly through good touch–bad touch-dichotomies, the doctoral thesis challenges to reflect on what kind of values, attitudes and norms are connected to touch not just in the educational settings, but also more widely in the society. The thesis brings up the question: What if touch in the relations of preschools would be seen as a loving act? The thesis suggests that by loving touch children and educators could create the preschool into a place where there is room for love, respect and right on one’s own body.

Last updated: 20.4.2022