Introduction: why we need to move beyond instrumentalization when discussing families and early childhood education and care

Joanne Lehrer, Katrien Van Laere, Fay Hadley, Elizabeth Rouse

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript/introductionpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Parental involvement, engagement, and partnerships have been of considerable interest to policy makers and scholars in the field of education since the 1960s. Research began identifying achievement gaps based on social class and cultural background, particularly in the United States (Fan & Chen, 2001; Lehrer & Bastien, 2015), and associated parental involvement in children’s education, both in school and at home, with children’s success in school and in life (e.g., Barnard, 2004; Chan & Ritchie, 2016; Carter, 2002; Epstein, 1995; Epstein & Salinas, 2004; Fan & Chen, 2001). We argue that the discourse of parent involvement is part of a larger neoliberal economic rationale for early childhood education and care (ECEC), and that relationships with families are instrumentalized as a means to ensure children’s educational success, instead of focusing on meaningful relationships between ECEC professionals and parents in the present moment. Too often, the focus in research and policy is on how partnerships with families serve the child’s future interests in order to ensure that he or she will be a contributing asset to society and the economy. This introduction will set the stage for the chapters that follow by deconstructing the instrumentalized role of parents in ECEC within neoliberal states as well as the marginalization and exclusion of parents and families who choose not to or cannot meet externally imposed expectations, or whose cultural values include different visions of their own and educators’ roles. The following chapters illustrate some possible alternatives to the instrumentalized role of parents and families, focusing on ethical, social, and rights-based rationales for engaging with families.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRelationships with families in early childhood education and care
Subtitle of host publicationbeyond instrumentalization in international contexts of diversity and social inequality
EditorsJoanne Lehrer, Fay Hadley, Katrien Van Laere, Elizabeth Rouse
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780367816100
ISBN (Print)9780367417567, 9780367417581
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Publication series

NameEECERA Ethical Praxis book series


  • family partnerships
  • parent partnerships
  • international contexts
  • early childhood care and education


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