Female preschool teachers' perspectives on formal and informal sexuality education in the preschool classroom

Ann M Kolodji, University of Pennsylvania


The purpose of this study was to examine how female preschool teachers' training and education around human sexuality, how their views of themselves as sexual beings, and how their views of their role in the sexual development of their students contributed to their formal and informal teaching practices around sexuality in the preschool classroom. The results yielded a model of female preschool teachers' views of their teaching and education regarding sexuality issues. Symbolic interactionism and postmodern feminism served as theoretical lenses to frame and understand the meanings that the research participants attached to sexuality in the preschool classroom. Open-ended, semi-structured interviews with 20 female preschool teachers were analyzed for emergent themes using constant comparative analysis. One of the major findings from this study was the climate of control that surrounded sexuality in the preschool classroom, taking the form of extreme observation, behavioral restrictions, and classroom rules. Female preschool teachers' discomfort and fear around sexuality, their lack of a supportive upbringing around sexuality, the societal challenges of preschool education, and tenuous parent-teacher relationships contributed to this atmosphere of control and surveillance around children's bodies and behaviors. The hidden messages in participants' descriptions of boys' behaviors suggested that female preschool teachers were less supportive of cross-gender behaviors in boys when compared to girls. Another gender-related finding indicated that female preschool teachers constructed cross-sex sexual interest, touching, and play in terms of contemporary gender schemas which emphasize males as a sexual threat to females. These gender schemas placed on children reflected cultural perspectives where females and males were viewed not only as opposites but often in opposition. Education in conjunction with experience was a key characteristic of the participants that reported more knowledge of typical sexual development in children. The findings that emerged from this study were used to develop recommendations for sexuality education in the preschool classroom that follow a developmental, comprehensive, and supportive approach to children's sexual learning and development.

Subject Area

Preschool education|Developmental psychology|Teacher education|Health education

Recommended Citation

Kolodji, Ann M, "Female preschool teachers' perspectives on formal and informal sexuality education in the preschool classroom" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9976440.