Using strengths-based approaches in early years practice and research

Angela Fenton*, Kerryann Walsh, Sandie Wong, Tamara Cumming

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Strengths-based approaches draw upon frameworks and perspectives from social work and psychology but have not necessarily been consistently defined or well articulated across disciplines. Internationally, there are increasing calls for professionals in early years settings to work in strengths-based ways to support the access and participation of all children and families, especially those with complex needs. The purpose of this paper is to examine a potential promise of innovative uses of strengths-based approaches in early years practice and research in Australia, and to consider implications for application in other national contexts. In this paper, we present three cases (summarised from larger studies) depicting different applications of the Strengths Approach, under pinned by collaborative inquiry at the interface between practice and research. Analysis revealed three key themes across the cases: (i) enactment of strengths-based principles, (ii) the bi-directional and transformational influences of the Strengths Approach (research into practice/practice into research), and (iii) heightened practitioner and researcher awareness of, and responsiveness to, the operation of power. The findings highlight synergies and challenges to constructing and actualising strengths-based approaches in early years childhood research and practice. The case studies demonstrate that although constructions of what constitutes strengths-based research and practice requires ongoing critical engagement, redefining, and operationalising, using strengths-based approaches in early years settings can be generative and worthwhile.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-52
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Early Childhood
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • strengths approach
  • strengths-based approaches
  • collaborative research
  • case study


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