ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary Education

ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary EducationLead advisor on early childhood care and education 
National membership 

Publisher of the New Zealand-International Research in Early Childhood Journal


Violence and children's violent behaviour in early childhood education

yelling at childAre you looking for readings and references on the issue of violence in early childhood care and education services? You may be undertaking research, doing an assignment on this topic, or your service may be engaging in self-review and need some background and discussion material

Below is a list of references and resources to help.

 Please let us know if you find any of the links are broken or no longer work.



Jones, Sarah (2012) Physical aggression in early childhood: bridging the gap between theory and practice : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Master of Educational Psychology at Massey University, New Zealand Retrieved from

Literature reviewed in this study suggested there is a gap between recommendations made in research for supporting children with physically aggressive behaviour and the actual experiences of early childhood teachers working with these children. The aim of this study was to identify how early childhood teachers can be provided with greater knowledge and resources to effectively support young children with physically aggressive behaviour. A mixed methods design was chosen for this study. Data collection included interviews with five head teachers from early childhood centres across Taranaki and survey responses from a random sample of four centres across the region. Interview and survey data was subjected to thematic and content analysis and revealed a number of early childhood teachers would like access to greater knowledge and resources to support children with physically aggressive behaviour and their families. Early childhood teachers expressed an interest in access to guidelines to inform their practice and greater awareness of what support is currently available. Teachers also made explicit the need for relevant professional development which provides specific strategies for managing physically aggressive behaviour. The findings of this study suggest early childhood teachers need increased education and knowledge to effectively meet best practice for these children and their families

Alexander, Sarah. (2016). How safe are early childhood education workplaces? Survey results. Wellington, NZ: ChildForum Early Childhood National Organisation. Retrieved from

Injures caused directly by children were less common than those that were accident related and were mentioned only by staff who were at kindergarten and childcare centre workplaces. Injuries caused by children included:
• being bitten by children
• back, arm and shoulder injuries due to children playing roughly or needing to be held by the hand but pulling away frequently
• being hit by a child
The information also provides a starting point for the Ministry of Education to begin to look at and evaluate its effectiveness in providing oversight to services on staff health and safety, as this has consequences for compliance with regulations for staffing and children’s health and safety and education outcomes.
The comments by some respondents that they had been injured by children, suggests that more work may need to done around ensuring small group sizes to reduce stress for children, settling children with behavioral or special needs, or children who have experienced recent trauma or upheaval, and staff training along with provision of adequate teacher aide support.
The Ministry of Education may already be aware of staff bullying occurring within the early childhood education sector and it could respond by rolling out professional development training to service providers (owners and operators) and managers in particular, on human relations skills and how to develop and ensure a culture that does not support bullying.


News articles

Violent pre-schooler under investigation, NZ Herald, Aug 25, 2013.
“ChildForum chief executive Dr Sarah Alexander says the ministry is unlikely to have a full picture on the level of violence in preschools because early childhood centres are not required to report incidents to the ministry.
"I believe that it would be helpful if the ministry collected information on exclusions and suspensions and used this to identify services with the highest rates of exclusion so professional support can be given to teachers and services will be less likely to push for children to leave."

Care linked to delinquency, The Press, 09/06/2008
Auckland University of Technology lecturer Warwick Pudney has also raised questions about the link between more than 20 hours a week childcare and increasing violence. In an earlier study, he reported that early childhood educators were experiencing more violence from children. He found teachers were enduring kicks to their body, punches, damage to property, hitting of other children and abusive, offensive language. Research suggested that the reason for this may be the lack of secure attachment to parents or caregivers, which raised issues for early childhood centres as to whether they should condone more than 20 hours a week childcare in their practice as a prevention.

Technology use and internet safety in ECE, 29 November 2012 Retrieved From
Ms Carlson services needed to check everything they showed children and linked to on the internet. She used an example from one service which had posted a link to a video on You Tube which was later found to link to another video with violent content. While the original video was suitable for children’s viewing Ms Carlson said services needed to be careful about what children might accidentally be exposed to. If this sort of situation happened, the best course of action was to discuss it openly with parents, before the child said anything.

'Horror' tales at preschools, Oct 10, 2013
A child bitten by her teacher, teachers smacking children and staff smoking near pupils were among almost 250 complaints - including abuse and neglect - at early childhood education centres reported last year.

Opinion and Professional Information Pieces

Safe from the Start Project for Children Who Have Been Exposed to Violence - We don’t have any programme like this in NZ – yet its well known that being exposed to violence at a young age can have a huge effect on children!

Do You Allow (Or Even Encourage) Gun Play? By Tim Kahn, 2013. Retrieved from
“More and more settings use their children’s interests as the starting point for their curriculum. However, there is one area where this was not happening and this was pointed out in 2003 by Penny Holland, an early years academic, in her book We Don’t Play with Guns Here1. Holland recognised that a zero-tolerance attitude had grown up towards one area of the curriculum – that of war, weapons and superhero play – often indulged in persistently by a group of boys (and a small number of girls). Although there was no policy forbidding such play, it was outlawed by settings in the unproven (and, many would now argue, ‘mistaken’) belief that it promoted violence in the children who indulged in it, as well as disturbing the learning of others. The unintended consequence of preventing such play was that those whose interests lay in that area might be turned off learning in its broadest sense (for example, developing their own self-esteem, as well as more formal curriculum skills) following the logic: “If my interests are not acknowledged by the setting, then I do not belong here.” A child may go so far as to believe that there may be something wrong with him (or her) for only being interested in what is not permitted by the setting. “

Apologising - Asking a Child to Say Sorry and Consequences

Terminating a child's enrolment and when you can't provide a safe environment for other children

When Children Go Bad: The Rise in Behavioural Disorders, Medication, and Issues for Parents, Teachers and Early Childhood Services

Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a behavioural disorder that results in negative and hostile behaviour from a child.
This article explains: The signs or what to look for when identifying Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ways to help a child with the disorder.


The ECE Service Code of Conduct

Clause 2 of the ‘Code of Ethical Conduct for Early Childhood Services’ emphasises the obligation of service providers to ensure the well-being of all members, including staff. Early childhood education providers, supported by the Education Review Office, could engage in self-review on clause 2c “Early childhood service adults provide role models to children of respectful and inclusive behaviour”, and clause 2d “Any instances of hateful, hurtful or discriminatory behaviour (including bullying), attitudes, and language by any adult or child at the early childhood service are picked up promptly before escalation and addressed in a constructive and considerate way.” ( )


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