Why is play with children and their peers important for child development?

Topics: Play, Developmental psychology, Sociology Pages: 6 (2146 words) Published: April 18, 2014


Why is play with siblings and peers important for children’s development?

Harris (1998) and Pinker (2002) argued that parental influences have been noticeably overstated in terms of their developmental significance upon children. Unlike many ‘traditional’ researchers whom may have considered parental influences to be fundamental to child development, many contemporary researchers, such as; Schaffer, Dunn & Fein, have began to focus their attention much more profoundly upon the developmental significance of child relationships between one another; namely their fellow peers and siblings. The aim of this assignment is to further explore the developmental significance of child interaction, in particular; child’s play, ensuring to maintain an analytical approach to all theories and research discussed. Throughout the assignment one will attempt to suggest how each relationship, interaction and negotiation within ‘child’s play’ may influence child development. Finally this assignment will ensure to draw attention to any potential weaknesses in all theories/ methods of research discussed.

To begin one might start by discussing the research and ideas of Fein 1984, and Smith who both explored the significance of; conflicts, disputes, disagreements and play fighting. As a focal starting point for this essay one will discuss the transcript of “Dracula and the Monster-vanishing Hero” adapted by Fein, 1944, (pp.136-7). This transcript holds great significance as it demonstrates that ‘play’ induces the need for negotiation in reciprocal relationships. Unlike, complementarily relationships where there is an in-balance of power, resulting in the child naturally having to take the substandard role, in reciprocal relationships both participants share similar knowledge and social power. Therefore, in reciprocal relationships – present in child’s play - there is no parental figure present to protect or feed the child the knowledge needed to acquire the necessary skills. (K.Littleton & D.Miell 2009) Instead, the child has to learn these skills through their own social interaction experiences; as can be seen in the transcript ‘’Dracula and the Monster-Vanishing Hero”. Throughout the transcript there are several examples in which the children learn and practice the skills of negotiation and instruction; this can be seen when they decipher who will play the role of ‘Dracula’ or ‘Hero’. Whilst at first the children negotiate their potential roles well, and indeed appear to be cooperate together effectively, there is a crucial moment within their play-time when the two boys have conflicting ideas as to who will ‘shoot Dracula’. This conflict of ideas can be seen from lines 23-30 in the transcript of ‘‘Dracula and the Monster-vanishing Hero’’. One might suggest that the most significant moment of this sequence is when Michael, having had his arms’ pushed away by Peter, acknowledges Peter’s wishes and says ‘All right’ and lays down on the floor as instructed by Peter. This is largely significant as it demonstrates that Michael, despite having dissimilar ideas to Peter in their play session, seems to have acknowledged his friend’s frustration whilst choosing ‘who will shoot Dracula’ and so surrenders to Peter’s play idea in order to avoid any further, more serious conflict. One might suggest that this is central to the assignment question as it exhibits the fact that through ‘play’ children learn to develop the skills of negotiation; this is demonstrated when Peter and Michael use metacommunication to discuss how the their ‘play’ storyline will unfold. Yet, perhaps more importantly, one might suggest that ‘Michael’ showed the potential skills to acknowledge and registrar a change of mood in his fellow peer; Peter. This demonstrates a great skill to be able assess another person behaviour and thus react in a way that means withdrawing oneself in order to prevent conflict. However, in order to maintain an analytic approach one must...

References: Karen Littleton and Dorothy Miell, 2005, ‘Children’s interactions: siblings and peers in Sharon Ding and Karen Littleton, Children’s personal and Social Development, The Open university, p. 95-120.
Rachel George, John Oates and Clare Wood, 2006, ‘Discourse as Evidence’ in Rachel George, John Oates and Clare Wood, ‘Methods and Skills Handbook’ The Open University, p. 44.
Harris and Pinker (2002), cited in Karen Littleton and Dorothy Miell, 2005, ‘Children’s interactions: siblings and peers in Sharon Ding and Karen Littleton, Children’s personal and Social Development, The Open university, pp.95
Fein, (1944) cited in Karen Littleton and Dorothy Miell, 2005, ‘Children’s interactions: siblings and peers in Sharon Ding and Karen Littleton, Children’s personal and Social Development, The Open university pp100- 104
Vass, (2004) cited in Karen Littleton and Dorothy Miell, 2005, ‘Children’s interactions: siblings and peers in Sharon Ding and Karen Littleton, Children’s personal and Social Development, The Open university pp111-114
Dunn (1988) cited in Karen Littleton and Dorothy Miell, 2005, ‘Children’s interactions: siblings and peers in Sharon Ding and Karen Littleton, Children’s personal and Social Development, The Open university pp115- 118
William Corsaro (1986) cited in Karen Littleton and Dorothy Miell, 2005, ‘Children’s interactions: siblings and peers in Sharon Ding and Karen Littleton, Children’s personal and Social Development, The Open university pp 118
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