Being kitties in a preschool classroom: maintaining group harmony and acting proper in a female peer-culture play routine

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This study examines how young girls construct emotional themes in their peer-culture play routines and rituals in the daily life of a preschool classroom. This research is part of a larger eight-month ethnographic study of one preschool classroom. The data selected and analysed in this article are taken from a focused six-week theoretical sampling of five female preschool children's play. Micro-level analysis of the data (field notes, videotaping, video revisiting and interviews with teachers and students) revealed how children's peer-culture and emotional themes were socially constructed through a specific play narrative that centred on five females being ‘kitties’. A closer look at one group member named Mary uncovered emotional themes that centred on acting proper and group harmony. Females used their peer-culture and emotional themes to hold group members accountable, resolve conflict and appropriate society's emotional display rules. These data reveal the social–emotional ‘work’ of children and the role of peers in childhood socialisation.