Top award for Brighton research on ‘Professional Love’ in nursery care
University of Brighton lecturer Dr Jools Page has won the 2021 Louise Emanuel Award for her work on infant mental health and approaches to nursery care.
The annual award from the Association for Infant Mental Health UK recognises those ‘who have demonstrated a significant contribution to Infant Mental Health in terms of practice or through their work in research and policy’. It is named after Dr Louise Emanuel, who led the Infant Mental Health workshop at the Tavistock Clinic for many years, until her early death through illness in 2017.
Dr Page’s award cited her development of the concept of “Professional Love” (PL) in nursery contexts, in response to long-standing anxieties within child care which saw nursery practitioners consciously avoiding emotionally responsive interactions with young children. While partly due to the intense emotional demands young children – especially from more troubled families – can make towards responsive adults, anxiety also revolved around fears that strong nursery attachments could undermine home relationships.
Talking to mothers returning to work when their baby was under a year old, Dr Page developed a different approach. By linking the words ‘Professional’ and ‘Love’, her concept has led to changing practices across the early years care and education sector which seek to provide emotionally intimate care to infants within professional boundaries.
Dr Page’s work is now recognised nationally and internationally with regard to professional early years care and education for children under three, as well as leading to greater attention being paid to infant mental health in nursery settings – as in this 2020 TES feature.
Dr Page, Senior Lecturer in the University of Brighton’s School of Education, said: ”I was overwhelmed and extremely humbled that Professional Love (the culmination of the roles I have held working with and on behalf of infants, toddlers and their families for the past four decades in all three areas of practice, policy and research) was nominated for and then won the 2021 Louise Emanuel Award. It is an enormous honour for me to receive this award from such a prestigious organisation – and even more so in their 25th year.”