Human Development and Society Group

Tullia Musatti.


The Human Development and Society research group (HDS) studies the relationships between young children’s socialization and cognitive development with concern to three main themes:

  1. Social and cognitive processes in the first years of life. HDS group has investigated the relationship between cognitive and social aspects in child development and learning by analyzing children’s activities and behavior within early educational centers, such as nido and scuola dell’infanzia, where groups of young children meet daily over many months. HDS group explored how children share a joint focus of attention, elaborate shared meanings, and participate in joint activities (Project 1.1). A special focus is made on the integration of young children from immigrant families into children’s group within educational centers (Project 1.2). All of these studies were based on ethnographic data (written notes and video-observations) on daily life of groups of children within early childhood education and care centers and carried out within action-research projects with the participation of educators, teachers, and pedagogical coordinators operating in the centers. The evolution of children’s experience over time and its social and cognitive dimensions were explored in collaboration with the Education Department of the City of Pistoia, within an action-research project that involved the teachers of a great number of services over four educational years (Project 1.3).
  2. The analysis and evaluation of early childhood education and care centers. HDS group has elaborated a system of participatory evaluation aimed to assess of compliance with regulations and standards as well as to the improve educational practices. This system is based on the documentation and analysis of children’s experience in educational centers and requires the participation of all the stakeholders (educators, teachers, pedagogical coordinators, managers, decision-makers, and children’s parents) in the evaluation process. Professionals’ participation in documenting and analyzing children’s experience enhances their competences in observation and their reflexivity (Project 2.1). Over the years, the evaluation system has been implemented in different sites and within diverse systems of early education services by contextualizing the evaluation procedures: Umbria region (1999-2001), the City of Pistoia (Project 2.2), the City of Rome (Project 2.3), and the Municipality of Parma (Project 2.4).
  3. Early childhood education and care and parents’ needs in modern society has been a theme explored by several surveys over the years. Qualitative studies have been focused on different aspects of family life with concern to young children’s care and education, such as relationships within family members and the specific condition of immigrant mothers. Analysis of data collected by the Italian National Institute of Statistics within the Multipurpose Survey on Time Use (Project 3.1) showed the variability of daily life of families with children under six years of age. Special attention was paid on parents’ needs of social support. In cooperation with a municipal district administration in Rome (Project 3.2), Centers for children and families, aiming to promote socialization of young children and their parents, were created and monitored in a peripheral area of Rome and then extended to other areas of the city. A further study was carried out within a transnational project (Project 3.3) in collaboration with research teams from Belgium, France and Japan; it explored the origins and rationales of similar types of centers in the four countries and analyzed their practices, use, and impact on participants. In Italy, the study (Project 3.4) included also a survey on the presence and organization of Centers for children and families across regions and an ethnographic study on the practices and functioning in a large sample of them.




Tullia Musatti
Associate Researcher






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