How important is professional love?

Findings from research by Dr. Jools Page:

Most people would agree to the necessity of “professional love” when caring and educating children. Erich Fromm stated that: “One loves that for which one labours and labours for that which one loves.” But in this modern world we live in teachers & child care professionals are now very careful about the way they ‘love’.

Dr Jools Page, Director MA in Early Childhood Education at Sheffield University, research explores the biggest challenge, that love is rarely discussed within our culture, or when it is we are not open about it – there are too many tricky issues associated with loving children that have caused enough fear within early educators to silence the more healthy discussions that should be had.

Dr Page conducted a study last years surveying almost 800 early year professionals. Respondents gave a wide range of definitions of ‘professional love’, including broad terms like ‘care’ and ‘kindness’ or being ‘available’ and paying ‘attention’ to the children.

Some disagreed when relating professional love to parental love, with some saying it should be parental in nature – ‘loving a child as if it’s your own’ or ‘acting like a mother’ – with others saying it wasn’t the same as the bond you’d have with your own child.

Summary of Dr. Jools Page research findings:

  • 56% were not concerned about parents’ attitudes to professional love
  • 22% felt they are acting in line with what parents want for their children
  • 3% thought that parents understand there are clear boundaries or policies in place
  • 10% of practitioners surveyed reported concerns over parents feeling threatened, jealous or uncomfortable about early years staff developing a relationship with their children.

In a recent article from Nursery World Dr. Page said:

‘It is astonishing to me that the words ‘loving and secure’ have been eroded from the recent iterations of the EYFS (2012, 2014) in relation to ‘how children learn to be strong and independent’, as if love no longer has a rightful place in early years practice. Is it any wonder that practitioners are confused by these changes and have responded eagerly to our survey? Respondents have told us of their ‘utter relief’ that research on love and intimacy is ‘at last’ being conducted.

Defining love in professional roles is problematic because there is no skill set that can be applied, taught or measured. Nevertheless, to deny the existence of love, particularly when research has already confirmed that love matters, is unhelpful. It is the debate and theorisation of love and care that is important.’

Article written by Dr. Jools Page and published in Nursery World ©

Further information:

For more information on the PLEYS research by Dr. Jools Page click here:

You can contact Dr. Jools Page at

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