Dramatic pretend play games uniquely improve emotional control in young children

Resource Type: Reports & Papers
Author(s): Goldstein, Thalia R.; Lerner, Matthew D.;
Date Issued: July, 2018
Description: Pretense is a naturally occurring, apparently universal activity for typically developing children. Yet its function and effects remain unclear. One theorized possibility is that pretense activities, such as dramatic pretend play games, are a possible causal path to improve children's emotional development. Social and emotional skills, particularly emotional control, are critically important for social development, as well as academic performance and later life success. However, the study of such approaches has been criticized for potential bias and lack of rigor, precluding the ability to make strong causal claims. We conducted a randomized, component control (dismantling) trial of dramatic pretend play games with a low-SES group of 4-year-old children (N = 97) to test whether such practice yields generalized improvements in multiple social and emotional outcomes. We found specific effects of dramatic play games only on emotional self-control. Results suggest that dramatic pretend play games involving physicalizing emotional states and traits, pretending to be animals and human characters, and engaging in pretend scenarios in a small group may improve children's emotional control. These findings have implications for the function of pretense and design of interventions to improve emotional control in typical and atypical populations. Further, they provide support for the unique role of dramatic pretend play games for young children, particularly those from low-income backgrounds. A video abstract of this article can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/2GVNcWKRHPk (author abstract)
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Funder(s): Templeton Foundation
Journal Title: Developmental Science
Volume Number: 21
Issue Number: 4
Page Range: 1-13
Topics: Children & Child Development > Child Development & School Readiness > Behavior/Social & Emotional Development/Socialization

Programs, Interventions & Curricula > Programs > Early Head Start/Head Start

Programs, Interventions & Curricula > Interventions/Curricula
Country: United States
ISSN: 1363-755X Paper
1467-7687 Online
Peer Reviewed: yes
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