Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Preschool children -- Middle West -- Conduct of life, Preschool children -- Middle West -- Attitudes, Peer pressure in children -- Middle West


Within preschool classrooms children soon realize that they are under the enforcement and direction of their teachers, which in turn limits their control over their classroom experience. To compensate for this, children develop a peer culture that is based on their interpretations of what they have observed in the adult world (Corsaro and Fingerson 2003). This occurs through a process called interpretive reproduction in which children creatively appropriate information from adult culture in order to produce a peer culture that is unique and different from adult culture (Corsaro 1997; Corsaro and Eder 1990; Corsaro and Fingerson 2003). Through almost 70 hours of ethnographic participant observation and four semi-structured interviews, this research seeks to understand the role that childcare providers play in establishing a peer culture in the Turtle room (a 4-5 year old preschool classroom). My findings indicate that gender plays a significant role in how teachers respond to children's behavior and that this has implications for how children recreate gendered messages within their peer culture. Specifically, for girls in the turtle room, the mean (popular) girls were manipulative and liked to bully other girls. Their behavior was viewed by teachers to be a normal part of girlhood that the girls themselves needed to "work out." These mean girls were also labeled as the "rule followers" of the class, and the teachers counted on them to be "watch dogs and little teachers" through disciplining unruly boys. However, the teachers assumed that the boys would be aggressive and disruptive in their classroom. This caused the troublemaking boys to develop an oppositional stance towards the teachers. Since the teachers used gendered notions of childhood during these comparisons and assumed that boys would be more disruptive in the classroom, they excluded nearly all boys from the opportunity of being evaluated positively. In turn, the boys created and recreated a rebellious status system in which they rejected the standards and comparisons of the teachers, rejected the kids they are compared to, and instead valued acting out.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

First Advisor

Carissa Froyum, Chair


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Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vii, 106 leaves ; 28 cm)



File Format


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Sociology Commons