New CERES Briefing

Exploring Young Children’s Social Identities: Performing Social Class, Gender and Ethnicity in Primary School
Dr Marlies Kustatscher, University of Edinburgh

This briefing summarises the findings from CERES Co-Director Marlies Kustatscher’s PhD research conducted as part of her doctoral studies at the University of Edinburgh between 2010-2015.

This study is based on an ethnographic research with a group of approx. 25 children aged 5-7 in a primary school in a Scottish city. The research explores how young children live their social identities in the context of a primary school. In particular, the project investigates the significance of social class, gender and ethnicity in the children’s identities and relationships.

While young children are sometimes seen as ‘too innocent’ or ‘too naïve’ to be concerned about these issues, this research showed that children are aware of general ideas and stereotypes about class, gender and ethnic identities. They also actively contribute to how such ideas and stereotypes come to be constructed and contested. This raises implications for education practitioners and policy makers to actively challenge intersectional inequalities in schools, and to involve children themselves in discussions about this.

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