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Metacommunication of children between five and ten years of age as a function of play context

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Metacommunication of children between five and ten years of age as a function of play context

Doehring, Peter (1993) Metacommunication of children between five and ten years of age as a function of play context. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

Metacommunication (i.e., statements which define how subsequent behavior is to be understood) becomes more frequent with age in the pretend play of children 2 to 6 years old. The present study examined metacommunication which occurred during both pretend and literal free play in children between five and ten years of age. Because of the role of pretend play in development, it was hypothesized that metacommunication would involve more planning and reflect greater interpersonal awareness during pretend as opposed to literal play and with increasing age. Metacommunication was also expected to contribute to the complexity of pretend play, and to significant shifts in the dyad's play state. The behaviors of 128 children (64 boys and 64 girls, equally distributed between kindergarten through grade 3) were observed during one 20-minute free play session with a familiar partner. Verbatim transcripts made from the videotaped play session were coded on a turn-by-turn basis in terms of: (a) the type of activity (pretend play versus literal play versus other activities); (b) the level of social involvement (solitary activities versus social interaction versus shared activities); (c) the type of turn (non-verbal versus verbal non-metacommunicative versus metacommunicative) and type of metacommunication (e.g., planning and interpersonal focus); (d) the success of interpersonal influence attempts; and (e) the narrative complexity of social pretend play. Analyses indicated that metacommunication occurred significantly more often, and involved more planning and person-focussed statements during social pretend play as compared to social literal play. Shared play also involved more planning and partner-focussed statements than non-shared play, although few differences between shared pretend and literal play were noted. Communication during transitions from social literal to social pretend play, from solitary to social play, and from social to shared play were also significantly more likely to involve greater planning and person-focus. These results suggest that pretend play continues to be an important medium for the practicing of communication during the early elementary school years. The lack of age changes in the frequency and quality of metacommunication may reflect that the children in the present study may not have been experimenting with new communication skills as much as they were consolidating existing skills, or enjoying the sense of control which arises from the ability to verbally plan their activities. The results are also interpreted as suggesting that the collaborative nature of play becomes more important with increasing age than its fantasy nature in the development of planning and interpersonal awareness. Limitations of the present design and implications for future research are also discussed.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Psychology
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Doehring, Peter
Pagination:xiii, 213 leaves : 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Theses (Ph.D.)
Program:Psychology
Date:1993
Thesis Supervisor(s):Doyle, Anna-Beth
ID Code:3673
Deposited By:Concordia University Libraries
Deposited On:27 Aug 2009 15:31
Last Modified:08 Dec 2010 10:34
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