Dr Jools Page discusses the concept of love with Dr Ann Clare, both of University of Sheffield School of Education.

Love is one of the three core concepts in the Professional Love in Early Years Settings research.
The other two are Intimacy and Care.

These concepts are applied in the Attachment Toolkit.


AC: Good morning. You’ve been doing a research project called ‘Professional Love In Early Years Settings’, I wonder if you could explain what that’s about and also actually where that original concept or that idea of ‘professional love’ came from?

JP: Sure, Ann. The research project really was built on the history of some other work that I’d been carrying out as a researcher. But prior to that, when I was in practice, I spent a long time working with children and families, and came to the idea that the relationships that I had formed with children and families was so deep that it was like a form of professionally loving practice. And so therefore when I went to carry out my PhD, my research was about mothers views of going back to work when their babies were under a year old. And as part of that project I asked mothers what they felt about the practitioner’s relationships with their young children. And the mothers in my study were telling me that they did want the practitioners to love their babies. Even though they didn’t always call it love, they did demonstrate to me that they had an understanding similar to my own. And from that I wanted to then further my understanding of what this was like from practitioner’s perspectives, and so the project, about professional love in early years settings was developed from that idea.

AC: Right, ‘professional love’. Can you define that? Have you got a definition for that? How do you see that working?

JP: I think it’s really hard to define love, and what professional love is. And as part of the project, one of the things that we asked practitioners was if they could come up with their own definitions. But the way that I’ve been working, to this phrase and why I conceptualised the term ‘professional love’ was built on Nell Nodding’s notion of ‘The Ethic of Care’, and she talks about caring relationships and I’ve taken that a step further into what I believe is loving care. And this is about the adults, in the relationship being able to de-centre, and to be able to position themselves as if in the place of the other. And also having a reciprocal relationship, between the child and the adult, in this case the practitioner, with the knowledge and understanding of the parent which would form some kind of complementary way of understanding one another. And I feel that that is something I was doing back in my practice many, many years ago without understanding the theory behind it, and that is what I define as professional love for the purpose of this project and the work that I’ve been doing to date.

AC: So when you ask practitioners about the word ‘love’, what is the reaction to it?

JP: That it’s messy! That it’s very difficult to define, and really this is what’s been at the heart of this project and what we’ve been trying to find out.