Rough and Tumble Behaviour and Child Development

02 Apr 2018

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Rough and Tumble behaviour and child development

There is a magnitude of research which supports the importance of play in a child’s psychosocial development with implications in empathy, perspective taking and information processing (Creasey, Jarvis & Berk, 1998 –textbook). Although there is no concrete definition of the term ‘play’, Saracho and Spodek (1998- textbook) have characterised play as being a creative activity which is intrinsically motivated, process- orientated and spontaneous which has implicit rules. Active –free play can be described as any physical play can be described as an type which includes ‘running, climbing, chasing and play fighting’ (Pellegrini & Smith, 1998) as well as wrestling, falling and fleeing (Reed & Brown, 2000). The issue with this type of active play is that it can be incorrectly seen as being aggressive or real fighting and detrimental to children and due to this, rough and tumble play can unfortunately be seen as not being as playing an important part in a child’s development and children have continuously been deterred or prohibited in participating in these types of play. This is seen especially in elementary teachers who often … However, due to the studies conducted in past years, more and more researchers are more likely to accept this type of activity as forming a part of play especially due to its prevalence cross all cultures (Tannock, 2011).

Although rough and tumble play is a fairly new type of active free play to be studied and has been said to be ‘’, research has found that this type of play has many benefits to children. Therefore, this essay will argue that rough and tumble behaviour is a type of active, free play which is important to child development, especially male children. This is because this type of activity enhances social competence in children and therefore children should be allowed to participate in some forms of this behaviour. More specifically, rough and tumble play enhances and develops children’s emotional competence by allowing children to encode and decode emotional messages , development into games- with.- rules as well as social flexibility and problem solving.

Emotional competence is important for children’s development with . Research has revealed that unstructured active play has been linked to the development of children’s emotional competence which is composed of sending, receiving and experiencing affect and affective messages (Lindsey & Colwell, 2013; ). The study conducted by Lindsey & Colwell (2013) examined active free play which included both exercise and rough and tumble play as well as pretend play of preschool children over a two- year period. This study found that there was a correlation between rough and tumble play was a predictor of children’s emotional expressiveness and emotional regulation. To explain this, it was proposed that during active play, children have to be able to signal and regulate their own emotions while initiating and sustaining in this type of play. During rough and tumble play, children must also learn how to encode and decode emotional messages from themselves and their play partner to identify the difference between play fighting and actual fighting. Another explanation of emotional regulation in children who participate in active free play which was also suggested for these results was the energy reduction hypothesis (Pellegrini & Smith, 1998b as cited in Lindsey & Colwell) which suggests that the exertion of physiological energy during physical play such as rough and tumble play, means that this energy won’t be expressed in other unsuitable emotional ways. The study also found that there was a large discrepancy in gender differences where boys who engaged in rough and tumble play had more positive emotions than girls who were engaged in the same play. It was suggested that this could be because rough and tumble play is a more voluntary type of play for boys than girls. When participating in rough and tumble play, boys must be able to regulate their emotions and show positive emotions to make sure that the play does not escalate to aggression or hostility.

Another impact of rough and tumble play in the affective dimension is that it provides a ground to express caring behaviours and intimate contact with friends for one another through this type of play. The qualitative study conducted by Reed and Brown (2000) examined a group of boys who regularly participated in rough and tumble play. This study found that rough and tumble play was an avenue in which boys were able to express care and intimacy for one another and provided a safe environment for participants to announce their caring relationships with their friends. For example, participants were seen to check each other if others were hurt, walk with arms around each other or holding hands. Rough and tumble play was also found to allow participants to display healthy personal boundaries and it was also found that rough and tumble play occurred within the context of caring relationships. Having the means to express care in friendships between boys is extremely important since society has a way of showing that intimate contact among males is not appropriate and that males as young as three must not outwardly express their feelings. Rough and tumble play can be used as a camouflage for intimacy.

In spite of Lindsey & Colwell’s (2013) investigation providing strong support for the current argument, their correlation study does not necessarily ascertain cause and effect and this is a limitation of this study. Since cause and effect can’t be proved, it can’t be assumed that children who are less able to encode and decode emotional messages are not able to engage in this type of play. Another limitation of this study was that all the data that was collected came from children in one specific child care setting and characteristics of this setting such as the attitude of teachers towards this type of play may have influenced the results (Pellegrini, 2004).Both Lindsey and Colwell (2013) and females rough and tumble play was not investigated at all in Reed and Brown (2000). However, encoding and decoding of emotions is just as important for girls as well as boys and there is no evidence to say that girls are any worse than boys at doing this, yet the results and demographic of these studies show that girls don’t participate in rough and tumble play as often as boys do

Secondly, research has also found that children who participate in rough and tumble play are socially competent and are able to socially problem solve (Pellegrini, 1988 & 1993). The study by Pellegrini (1988) also found that there was a positive relationship between social flexibility and rough and tumble play. This study measured children’s solutions to hypothetical social issues such as how to get a toy from a peer or how to avoid being scolded by a mother. The researchers used Spivak and Shure’s (1979) Interpersonal Cognitive Problem Solving (ICPS) instrument to generate problems. Each participant was asked to come up with as many solutions as possible and each score the participant got was based on the variety of solutions they came up with. It was suggested that the relationship between social flexibility and rough and tumble play was due to the role reversals (such as defender and offender) which occur during this type of play. Role reversals are one of the strategies used in rough and tumble play to sustain this type of play and are also important in the skill of perspective taking. The ICPS instrument provides similar ways to initiate and sustain play such as the strategies used in rough and tumble play. This study found that these positive flexibility was only seen in children who were seen as being popular.

Similarly, a later study conducted by Pelligeri (1993) aimed to investigate the relationship between social competences and particular characteristics of rough and tumble play where participants were observed in their school’s playground environment during recess over twenty sessions. Each participant’s social competence was defined by the participant’s solutions to the presented social problems using the ICPS (as above) and peer nominated popularity. The study found that there was a significant relationship between the flexibility of rough and tumble play to social problem solving, above other forms of mutual social interactions. It was suggested that these results were due to rough and tumble play posing as a type of social competition and that higher order strategies must be used when engaging in this type of play to be the ‘winner’. Similarly, it was also suggested that the creative dimension and behaviourally flexible strategies such as those which are used throughout rough and tumble play can be used generally in other areas of life such as when problem solving. This study also found that there was negative relationship between the frequency of rough and tumble play and popularity.

One difference between the studies is that in Pelligrini’s 1988 study, it was found that popularity was a factor which indicated the positive effects of rough and tumble play, however in his later study in 1993, it was found that there a negative relationship. The differences in results could be due to the age groups of the participants in the two studies. The 1988 study used children who were at an earlier stage in childhood (M age = 7 years) than the participants in the later study who were nearing early adolescence (M age= 11years). This is consistent with previous research which suggests that rough and tumble play may provide a prosocial role for young children (Neill, 1976).

The biggest limitation of the study conducted by Pellegrini (1992) was that only popular boys were observed in this study. Similarly, this study only used a single- blind study

Secondly, research has also shown that rough and tumble play has been known to predict children’s movement to games- with –rules. According to Parten’s and Lytton’s typology, games with rules are play which are managed by specific rules and are much more formal (textbook). This stage lies parallel with key stages of cognitive development. The study by Pellegrini (1988) which aimed to children in elementary school (in grades K, 2 and 4) were observed while playing during recess time. This study found that . This was said to be due to comparable motor skills being used in both rough and tumble play and games with rules indicates that rough and tumble play can be used as practise for games with rules which becomes more prevalent in later years. An example of this can be seen in chasing behaviours of rough and tumble play where a child must both dodge and run. These types of behaviours can also be seen in the game ‘tag’. The similarities in behaviours and structure in games with rules and rough and tumble play m.

Finally, previous research has shown that children who engaged in rough and tumble play were more liked and accepted by their peers (Colwell & Lindsey, 2005). Colwell and Lindsey (2005) assessed the relationship between preschool children’s pretend and physical play with peers who were of the same, other and mixed sex and their perceived peer acceptance by their teachers. This longitudinal study was conducted over two years where children (M age = 5) were observed while they were on the playing outside. This study found that

In conclusion, this essay aimed to argue that rough and tumble play was important type of active free play in the development of children.

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