Prospective relations of preschoolers’ prosocial and aggressive affect themes in pretend play with prosocial and aggressive behaviors across contexts
Children’s ability to engage in pretend play is important for healthy development. However, relative to cognitive play features, only a handful of studies have examined the influence of affect expression in pretend play on child development. This study evaluated prospective relations of 250 preschoolers’ (Mage = 49.05 months, SD = 2.95; 50% female; 46% Latinx) expressions of prosocial and aggressive affect themes in solitary pretend play with their prosocial and aggressive behaviors in laboratory and school settings two years later. Prosocial and aggressive affect themes in preschoolers’ pretend play evidenced specific and positive relations with prosocial and aggressive behaviors in the laboratory two years later, but not with teacher-reported behaviors in school. Multigroup analyses indicated these relations did not vary as a function of child gender, ethnicity-race, or poverty status. This study illustrates the complexity and behavioral significance of children’s affect expression in pretend play. Implications for understanding children’s play and social development include the need to consider affective (in addition to cognitive) play features, including specific affect themes in pretend play, as a potential window into children’s behavioral strengths and vulnerabilities.
Marcelo, Ana K. and Yates, Tuppett M., "Prospective relations of preschoolers’ prosocial and aggressive affect themes in pretend play with prosocial and aggressive behaviors across contexts" (2020). Psychology. 532.