Cultural Images of Children, Parents and Professionals: Italian Interpretations of Home-School Relationships

Rebecca S. New, Tufts University
Bruce L. Mallory, University of New Hampshire
Susanna Mantovani, Milano, Italy


This article explicates selected findings from a recently completed collaborative investigation of home-school relations in five Italian cities: Reggio Emilia, Milano, Trento, Parma, and San Miniato. The purpose of the investigation was to understand the transactional relationships among national social policy, cultural values, and local practice relative to infant care and preprimary education. The article focuses on both the continuity and sub-cultural variations associated with two national guidelines-gestione sociale [participatory social management] and l'inserimento [the initial entry of young children into out-of-home care]. These cultural concepts served as the basis for an examination of home-school relationships as interpreted at the policy, programmatic, and interpersonal level. Common themes relative to gestione sociale and l'inserimento were identified across the five cities; local and regional differences were also apparent in the translation of policy into practices. The study revealed diverse sociopolitical and theoretical interpretations of effective home-school relationships, leading to structural variations in how each guideline is operationalized and valued. Collaborative analyses led to a deeper understanding of the Italian cultural value of relationships as central to definitions of program quality, the emotional well- being of adults as well as children, and the situatedness of early childhood education within community and national contexts.