AJEC Vol. 42 No. 3 – Maximising advantage in the preschool years: Parents’ resources and strategies

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Ciara Smyth
Social Policy Research Centre
UNSW Sydney

Educational attainment has gained increasing importance in determining life chances. Parents hoping to secure a learning advantage for their offspring are increasingly focused on the preschool years. This downward shift from primary schooling has been prompted by the ‘first three years’ movement, with its emphasis on infancy and early childhood as critical periods for development and learning. So what does this mean for early years parenting? Do parents try to secure a learning advantage in the preschool years and how do they do it? This paper highlights the four resource-dependent strategies Australian parents employ, both individually and in combination, to promote their child’s early learning: ‘parenting for cognitive development’, outsourcing for cognitive development, ‘concerted cultivation’ and ‘redshirting’. By highlighting these resource-dependent strategies, this study highlights the socioeconomic gap in children’s access to opportunities that parents believe give children a learning advantage in the preschool years.

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