Background and History to the Professional Love concept

Professional Love in Early Years Settings (PLEYS) was set up to address the research gap and give confidence to early years practitioners who work closely and intimately with young children.  The PLEYS project was led by Dr Jools Page and a small research team1  funded by the University of Sheffield Innovation, Impact and Knowledge Exchange (IIKE) as Constructions of Intimacy in Early Childhood Education and Care: practitioners’ experiences and was co-produced in collaboration with an external partner group of eight nurseries, Fennies, who are located in the South East of England.

In recent years, a small number of high profile cases of early years practitioners have been convicted of child abuse, and the continued media exposure of abusive clergy and then of various ‘celebrity’ entertainers has led to a climate of wariness, if not suspicion, which has grown around the general issue of adults’ professional relationships with very young children. A difficulty for those who work in early years settings is thus how to express the affectionate and caring behaviours, which the role characteristically demands of them in their loco parentis, and which very young children need in their development of healthy attachments. Dr Jools Page2 developed the concept ‘Professional Love’ to try to understand these intimacies. Though sections of a prurient media are eager uncritically to advertise aspects of rare cases of professional abuses, the real issue, of an appropriate professional love, remains for the most part unexamined in the daily practice of early years settings, because it is obscured in the same climate of wariness.


  1. Dr Ann Clare,( Research Assistant)  Mr Jamal Lahmar, (Quantitative Researcher), Mrs Karen Kitchen, (Project Secretary) &  Professor Peter Clough, (Honorary Consultant)
  2. Page, J. (2011). Do mothers want professional carers to love their babies? Journal of Early Childhood Research. 9,(3) 310-323