Playful Relationships: A Contextual Analysis of Mother‐Toddler Interaction and Symbolic Play

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The relation between social interaction and complexity of toddler's symbolic play was investigated. 57 toddlers between 15 and 24 months of age were observed under 4 conditions: (1) child play alone, (2) child play with mother, (3) child modeling mother, and (4) child play with mother following the modeling condition. Each subject was rated on complexity of play, maternal attention directing, reciprocity, and maternal intrusiveness. Significant condition effects were found in which more complex forms of play were observed when the children were playing with their mothers than when playing by themselves. Maternal intrusions and questioning were negatively related to symbolic play. Turn‐taking was negatively related to simple exploratory play. Results of a sequential analysis demonstrated that turn‐taking was more likely to precede symbolic play, and maternal intrusiveness was more likely to precede simple exploratory play. The role of active partnership in symbolic play development is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1648-1656
Number of pages9
JournalChild development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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