Cultural Variations in Beliefs about Play, Parent-Child Play, and Children's Play: Meaning for Childhood Development

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

10 Scopus citations


This review considers variations in parental beliefs about play and participation in play in different cultural communities. A more inclusive definition of play is offered that focuses on framed and unframed playfulness. Parents in western technologically developed societies were more likely to embrace play as important for children's cognitive and social development and to see themselves as play partners to children, whereas families in more traditional societies saw play as incidental to childhood development. These belief systems are congruent with culture specific socialization practices and goals in different developmental niches. Rough play was more characteristic of the activities of parents and children in European American than in Asian or hunting-gathering societies. Cultural variations also existed in early parent-child framed and unframed playful interactions. Sibling play was more prevalent than mother-child play in some societies, calling into question dyadic models of early play interactions. Children's play activities were considered in the context of the replication of adult activities, work and play and differential opportunities for play, and physical settings. It is proposed that play serves a scholastic function in technologically developed societies, whereas it assists in the reproduction of culture-specific tasks and behaviors in agricultural and hunting-gathering societies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of the Development of Play
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199940295
ISBN (Print)0195393007, 9780195393002
StatePublished - Sep 18 2012


  • Agency
  • Beliefs
  • Culture
  • Enculturation
  • Fathers
  • Play
  • Scholastic
  • Siblings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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