• Cecilie Skovgaard-Petersen
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
This thesis explores Danish nursery teachers’ identifications of ‘vulnerability’ among the children with whom they work. With a constructivist-interactionist approach, the study aims to provide an insight into child care professionals’ own, context-specific understandings of children’s ‘vulnerability’. The methodology is based on three focus group discussions conducted among nursery teachers of three different nurseries in the Copenhagen area. The study draws on the theoretical, deviance-sociological assumption that the decisions made by persons of authority in society – in this case, nursery teachers of the Danish welfare state – express a societal demarcation between ‘normal’ and ‘deviant’ behaviour.

Through qualitative data analysis, the thesis demonstrates how the nursery teachers’ understandings of vulnerability are closely related to conceptions of ‘incompetence’. In their demarcations between normal and deviant behaviour of children and parents, the nursery teachers draw distinctions between the normal, ‘competent’ children and families, and the deviant, ‘incompetent’ children and families. Within this argument, a difference is highlighted between the nursery teachers’ constructions of vulnerability, depending on whether the concern lies in, respectively, children’s or parents’ behaviour – the difference being that concerns regarding parents’ behaviour are articulated as more directly moral, normative categorizations of incompetence. Moreover, it is illustrated how the nursery teachers’ dilemmas and, at times, opposing statements can be viewed as local reflections of larger-scale, contradictory political signals: on the one hand, the nursery teachers emphasize children’s differences and resources, an argument that complies with the individualized child vision of Danish legislation; but on the other hand, the nursery teachers express relatively clear demarcations between the ‘normal’ and the ‘deviant’ children and families, corresponding to the political objective of singling out the ‘vulnerable’ children from the ‘normal’ children as early as possible. On a societal as well as a local level, this ambiguity underlines the complexity in carrying out the task of spotting the ‘vulnerable children’ – and ultimately, it raises the question of whether the objectives of ‘prevention’ and ‘early intervention’ in Danish child policy have been sufficiently thought through.
Publication date14 Sept 2018
Number of pages76
ID: 286879657