Infants' lives in Australian family day care:  Stories in smooth and striated space

Year: 2012

Author: Stratigos, Tina, Sumsion, Jennifer, Bradley, Ben

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Each week in Australia over 100,000 children will spend, on average, 16 hours in Family Day Care (FDC).  Around 20% are under 2 years of age and there is evidence of increasing demand for infant places in FDC.  Family Day Care Australia suggest that particular characteristics of FDC, small groups, consistent educator, sibling care and a home like environment, make it an attractive option for families with infants.  Despite the important role it plays in the infant education and care landscape little research has been conducted in FDC.

This paper reports on a survey of literature about infants in FDC undertaken for a PhD project, within the larger ARC-funded Infants' Lives in Childcare project (Sumsion et al., LP0883913). In particular the paper illustrates how Deleuze and Guattari's (1987) concepts of smooth and striated space were put to work in mapping the research literature about infants in FDC.   According to Deleuze and Guattari, striated spaces are about regularity, measurement and boundaries and are associated with a global perspective. FDC research in striated space is often concerned with measuring aspects of quality and the conditions in which they occur.  Predetermined categories are measured and compared, their qualities and tensions woven into particular stories about FDC within particular boundaries.  Smooth spaces, on the other hand are about singularity, variation, situations that preclude comparison and are associated with a close vision.  Research in smooth space is often concerned with daily lives, close vision and shifting points of reference.  In these stories the participants may be given power to effect what is considered important and their voices heard in research reports.  Importantly, striated and smooth space are not intended to be seen as binaries, but exist together in mixture, sharing a territory and enriching each other.

Through an examination of belonging (a foundation of the Early Years Learning Framework) as an imagined story about FDC, the paper endeavours to illustrate the complex ways in which two key characteristics of FDC, family and home, work together.  It concludes with brief reflections about the utility of the concepts of smooth and striated space in mapping the research literature.