Everyday child care in daycare centers: An ethnographic study: Cuidado infantil no cotidiano da creche: Um estudo etnográfico

Vania Bustamante*, Cecilia McCallum

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This study is part of a wider project about the daily construction of childcare in a working-class neighborhood in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. It involves three years of field work on family routines and their relationship with health and education institutions. We suggest that care can be thought of as the construction of projects of the person, which is expressed in everyday practices and which occurs in a framework of power relations between agents who occupy different social positions. This chapter seeks to contribute to the conceptual discussion of childcare based on analysis of a daycare center. The research involved participant observation of the daily routine, as well as interviews with the workers at the daycare centers and local residents. We analyze and describe various dimensions of the daily construction of care as it occurs within the relationship between adults and children. Our study identified tensions between academic knowledge, linked to ‘planning,’ and practical knowledge, which informants associated with abilities posited as intrinsic to women. It also revealed that there is a tendency to idealize both caregivers and children, which coexists with the need to respond pragmatically to day-to-day demands. In fact, caregivers experience difficulties in containing disruptive behaviors, leading to indifference and to scolding of children in their care or even expression of anger. We argue that all of these phenomena may be considered different facets of childcare in this setting. Finally, we discuss the relationship between day-to-day practices in daycare centers in Salvador and the history of such centers as institutions for “needy” children, and we offer our assessment of the political and practical challenges ahead. Also addressed is the importance of thinking about care and educational practices in an integrated way and working within the framework of intersector policies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCultural Psychology of Education
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

Publication series

NameCultural Psychology of Education
ISSN (Print)2364-6780
ISSN (Electronic)2364-6799


  • Care
  • Children
  • Daycare center
  • Low-income community
  • Salvador da bahia


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