Joint research project: On the social contingency of educational and development chances through physical activity. Empirical studies and transfers with a special focus on diversity

Funded by: Ministry of Science and Culture, Lower Saxony, under the research programme Early childhood education and development.

Duration: April 2017 - March 2020

Members of the joint project:

Prof. Dr. phil. Ina Hunger (joint speaker)
Sports Education (Institute of Sport Science), Georg August University, Göttingen

Prof. Dr. rer. soc. Gabriele Rosenthal
Sociology (Center of Methods in Social Sciences), Georg August University, Göttingen

Prof. Dr. med. Knut Brockmann
Social Paediatrics (Interdisciplinary Pediatric Center for Children with Developmental Disabilities and Severe Chronic Disorders, Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, University Medical Center) Georg August University, Göttingen

In discussions on early childhood education and development, the importance of physical education is always underlined. Whether from a socio-political, academic or practical point of view, it is regularly pointed out that children`s health and motor skills, and their cognitive, mental, social and emotional development, are intimately connected with physical activity.
However, the degree to which children are able to benefit from the educational and development potentials ascribed to physical activity depends as a rule on the social constellation in which they grow up. In particular it is the (social) parent`s, as the ones who are primarily responsible for their children`s education and socialization, who open up, restrict, increase or deny opportunities for learning and experience through physical activities, who accept, encourage or put a stop to sporting activities or therapies.

This is the starting point for this joint research project. It considers the social constellations in which children spend their early years, and its goal is to paint a differentiated picture of the typical structures of socialization in respect of physical activities (and their potential), to reconstruct the parent`s action-oriented knowledge and their motives for encouraging their young children to be physically active, to analyse the social conditions that lead parents to encourage or discourage physical activity, and to relate these to the (regularly diagnosed) development of the child. The joint project comprises three interrelated sub-projects, focusing on families from different social, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. In addition to examining the specific milieu, attention will also be paid to the significance of the child`s gender and its special needs.

In a practical transfer phase, the specific knowledge thus acquired of parents social and cultural self-understanding in respect of early childhood (gender-related) socialization, education and support/therapy in terms of children`s physical activities, will enable us to optimize (social or remedial) pedagogical, development-related and health-oriented counselling from a diversity perspective. Overall, the long-term goal of this cooperative research project and practical transfer is to improve (social) access to the educational and development potentials of physical activity, especially for children who are disadvantaged by their familial and social background.