Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Upton I 80
Play/Psychological theories/Upton: or many years it was accepted that [Mildred Parten’s] categories were developmental – children progressed from solo to more social play. Recent research suggests that this is far from the case. (See Play/Parten,; Parten (1932)(1). All of these types of play are seen in the preschooler: five year olds spend more time in solitary or parallel play
Upton I 81
than in cooperative or associative play; and parallel play is as common at five years as it is at three years of age (Rubin et al., 1998)(2).
Parallel play/VsParten: there is evidence that parallel play is not an immature form of play, but a sophisticated strategy for easing your way into an ongoing game; successful integration into cooperative play involves observation of others at play, followed by playing alongside before interacting with other players (Rubin et al., 1998)(2).
Cognition: It has also been argued that this model is limited by neglecting the cognitive aspects of play (Bergen, 1988)(3).
Activity types/VsParten: A more useful way of classifying play is to focus on the type of activity rather than the social aspects. Three main activity types emerge from this way of thinking:

1. Functional play: Physical activities such as bouncing a ball, or rough and tumble.
2. Constructive play: Building and making things, drawing or colouring.
3. Socio-dramatic play: Role-play or „let’s pretend’.

VsParten: The different levels of social interaction described by Parten can be seen in each of these activity types
Social play: All these activities are popular throughout early childhood; however, the social play that is seen most often in the preschool years is socio-dramatic play.
Indeed, many experts in play consider this period of development the peak time for make-believe or fantasy play (Fein 1986)(4). >Play/Developmental psychology.



1. Parten, M.B. (1932) Social participation among pre-school children.Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 27: 243–69.
2. Rubin, K.H., Bukowski, W. and Parker, J.G. (1998) Peer interactions, relationships, and groups, in Eisenberg, N (ed.) Handbook of Child Psychology, Vol. 3: Social, emotional, and personality development (6th edn). New York: Wiley.
3. Bergen, D. (1988) Stages of play development, in Bergen, D (ed.) Play as a Medium for Learning and Development. Portsmouth: Heinemann.
4. Fein, G.G. (1986) Pretend play, in Gorlitz, D. and Wohlwill, J.F. (eds) Curiosity, Imagination and Play. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Psychological Theories
Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011


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