PRoKita - Plural Role Conflicts and Collective Consciousness in Organised Childcare

Project period: 01.11.2023 - 31.10.2025

Project leaders: Prof. Dr. Sigrid Betzelt (HWR Berlin) and Prof. Dr. Ingo Bode (University of Kassel)

Research Associates: Johannes Eckstein (HWR Berlin), Charlotte Herbertz (University of Kassel)

Funded by Hans-Böckler-Foundation.


Over the recent decades, early childhood education and care (ECEC) has developed into an expanding segment of Western societies and labour markets. Today, this sector is subject to multiple expectations that translate into demanding agendas at organisation level, including early skill formation, social inclusion, and child attendance relieving working parents from care needs. This complex task environment becomes exacerbated by the diversity of stakeholders which comprise parents from various socio-economic and cultural backgrounds; childcare workers with different occupational/professional profiles (in a traditionally feminised and ‘semi-professional’ field); providers pursuing and redeveloping distinctive pedagogic concepts and management approaches, etc.. From this perspective, and given both staff shortages and budget constraints in recent times, it is safe to assume that the sector is rife with tensions. Based on in-depth case studies and expert interviews at industry level, the research project PRoKita is geared towards gaining insights into how these tensions play out in German ECEC organisations, how the above mix of expectations shapes role conflicts therein, and how the latter affect the mind-sets of (various groups of) childcare workers. Dynamics feeding into forms of ‘collective consciousness’ – within organisations or a given occupational group – are of particular interest here. With this research agenda, the investigation highlights dynamics which have hitherto received scant attention in the scholarship on childcare work and organisation, for instance: ambiguities inherent in the sector’s expansion and the set of expectations aligning with the latter; the complexity of casework with parents (from different social backgrounds) in ECEC settings in the context of such ambiguities; furthermore, role-driven conflicts at the workplace as well as repercussions all this has on the building of collective consciousness in the above sense. The findings bear relevance for the understanding of potentials and challenges related to the labour process in the current ECEC sector but also permit a critical reflection on what society at large should (not) expect from this sector in 21st century welfare states.

The project focuses on elementary care for children up to six years of age (within medium or large sized organisations) and takes account of the staff, managers, and parents alike. The fieldwork is based on both qualitative in-depth case studies of childcare settings and expert interviews which help gain insights from a broader perspective. We run four case studies in public or non-profit care organisations (medium-sized, located in in East and West Germany, with variations in the socio-economic profile of the respective clientele, that is, in underprivileged or wealthier districts, or more mixed ones). Various data sources will be used, including documents from the selected ECEC organisations, semi-structured interviews, and focus group discussions. The analysis of these sources is oriented towards a hermeneutical understanding of the data and with the ambition of drawing more general theoretical conclusions from the evidence.

Further information on the HBS website.