An analysis of Malaysian-Chinese parents’ negotiation of identities as their children begin early childhood education and care in Malaysia and Australia
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 14:11 by Shi Jing Voon
Families with young children experience numerous and varied routines. Waking up, choosing clothes and travelling to the childcare centre are but some of the essential elements of daily life. Consistent routines are crucial in developing children’s feelings of predictability, security and trust. These feelings assist in regulating behaviours, especially during transitions in family life, such as commencing formal early childhood education and care (ECEC) for the first time. Transitions may lead to disjuncture, described by Jarvis (2005) as a state of learning when existing experiences and current expectations differ. In order to gain a full understanding of how parents overcome this particular ECEC disjuncture, it is vital to consider the roles and responsibilities that they attach to their identities. A range of historical and relational considerations in the form of goals, beliefs and understandings enable parents to negotiate multiple identities. Parents’ negotiation of multiple identities is influenced by the disjuncture of personal and/or family goals, beliefs and understandings. This situation is further complicated for immigrant parents. Socialised in different societies, it is common for immigrants to bring cultural baggage with them to their new country. This study investigates the characteristics of the Malaysian-Chinese parent identity as their children begin formal ECEC in Malaysia and Australia. Borrowing from the notion of goodness (Dixson, Chapman, & Hill, 2005), this study searches for strengths that lie in how parents meet, negotiate and overcome challenges to their beliefs, goals and understandings during this state of disjuncture, and provides insights into their perceptions of their evolving identities. Data were collected in the form of non-participant observations of daily family routines and semi-structured interviews with 21 Malaysian-Chinese parents of children 5 months to 5-years-old in Kuala Lumpur and Sydney. Analysis of interview transcripts and field notes was undertaken from an ethnographic perspective, using HyperRESEARCH (Version 3.0.3) to manage a three-stage, inductive, iterative process according to Morse and Richards (2002). Analysis revealed three categories of parents: Accepters; Negotiators; Challengers. Themes derived from the data show that the parents’ identities are mostly signified by three main characteristics: perception of self; education; perceived power structures. Historical and relational considerations are two overarching strengths that inform how these parents meet, negotiate and overcome challenges to their beliefs, goals and understandings. The interplay of characteristics and strengths in various combinations contributes to how parents perceive their evolving identities. These perceptions were signified by three main themes: change (the nature of change and the extent of its inevitability); sense of responsibility (for self, partner, parent, child, or community); and experiencing empowerment (the level of which depends on acknowledgement, acceptance and respect for beliefs, goals and understandings). The findings of this study provide insight into the importance of relationships in the provision of quality ECEC experiences for children, in particular Malaysian-Chinese children in Kuala Lumpur and Sydney. Understanding how parents overcome the disjuncture that they may experience when their children commence ECEC for the first time, through characteristics of identities and historical and relational considerations, facilitates the strengthening of relationships between parents and ECEC settings. Parental empowerment during this state of disjuncture is crucial in ensuring strong, meaningful and respectful partnerships among children, families and communities. Such partnerships are crucial in enabling all stakeholders to optimise opportunities for all children.