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From Child Care to Family Assistance: The Effects of the Professionalization of Child Care Services in France

Mélanie Jacquot, Anne Thevenot, Jutta De Chassey

Research framework: Over the last twenty years, child care services in France have undergone a major upheaval. Traditionally provided by women, mostly mothers, childcare has become a paid profession with the benefits of a professional activity without having to leave the home.

Objectives: Conducted as an extension of research already conducted with caregivers, this work studies the effects that the professionalization of caregiving. A unique aspect of this work is the introduction of men into the profession since 2005 and the changes that have occurred since the introduction of the law in 2005 which defined the status of caregiver and family assistance.

Methodology: This clinical psychology research project was led by a research team of two teacher/researchers from the Université de Strasbourg in France and two psychologists from Aide sociale à lenfance or ASE (Child and Social Services). We based our work on a discourse analysis of 14 male care givers conducted as a part of recorded semi-directed interviews. We proceeded with a thematic analysis or each interview and compared the results with those of a previous study conducted with women.

Results: Interview analysis revealed that these men base themselves on the naturalization of their authority to prove their professional value. This is similar to how the women in the previous research work based themselves on the naturalization of their maternal qualities to guarantee their skills.

Conclusion: These professionalization process tends to denaturalize family care by dematernalizing it. It is through the use of gendered stereotypes that men find their place and function and are allowed to exercise this activity in a manner that they find satisfying.

Contribution: This work reveals the effects of the evolution of training and professionalism of full time childcare, a previously gendered activity, on its practise and on the way the people who engage in it perceive themselves.