Infants draw on ‘emotional capital’ in early childhood education contexts: a new paradigm

Andi Salamon*, Jennifer Sumsion, Linda Harrison

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Research about infants’ capacity to communicate using cries, smiles and sophisticated emotional strategies to connect with adults in their lives has predominantly emerged from the field of developmental psychology, with relatively limited attention to how babies enact such communicative practices with key adults in naturalistic settings. This article examines the emotional communicative practices infants use with educators in early childhood education and care contexts. Drawing on data from a study about educators’ conceptions of infants’ capabilities, the article frames babies’ intentional use of emotionally evocative communication as ‘emotional capital’. Transcripts of digital videos, pictures and written observations are used to illustrate how infants actively draw on reserves of emotional capital to guide the course of their relationship with educators, affording a view into how these efforts to communicate emotional messages are understood and met by their educators. Drawing on the theory of practice architectures, implications for the relationships that develop between infants and their primary carers/educators are discussed. Concluding thoughts acknowledge infants’ agency and active contribution to the dynamics within those relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-374
Number of pages13
JournalContemporary Issues in Early Childhood
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • infants
  • agency
  • developmental psychology
  • early childhood education and care
  • emotional capital


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