Citekey: @Rentzou2013

Rentzou, K. (2013). Greek preschool children’s playful behaviour: assessment and correlation with personal and family characteristics. Early Child Development and Care, 183(11), 1733–1745.


Notes to me as an instructor:

  • This study reports on correlation analyses
  • Discussion points
    • correlation vs. causation
    • what constitutes strong correlation?
    • how to go from correlations?
    • how to write a discussion section?


The present study had a twofold aim. On the one hand, it aimed at assessing Greek preschool children’s playfulness employing Children’s Playfulness Scale. On the other hand, it aimed at examining whether personal and family variables affect children’s playfulness. Results suggest that the sample exhibits rather medium levels of playfulness and that during play they enact more cognitive spontaneity, compared with other components of playfulness. Thus, correlation analysis showed that playfulness components predict one another and that several personal and family characteristics correlate with playfulness’ aspects. (p. 2)

emh.. ‘correlation = causation’ alert. Read more… (p. 2)

Though playfulness, as a notion, is employed in accordance with the notion of play, there is a different meaning in the terms ‘play’ and ‘playful’ (Lester & Russell, 2010; Youell, 2008). According to Burghardt (2005.cited in Lester & Russell, 2010) ‘play is the outward expression or actualisation of a playful disposition whereas being playful represents a particular approach to life, an urge to be open to and explore possibilities, to perceive and act in a way that denotes a sense of optimism and belief in one’s own agency’ (p. 8). Lester and Russell (2010) conclude that while play refers to the behaviour one employs, playfulness refers to ‘being’ (p. 16). (p. 2)

Yet, while playfulness and play have different meaning they are interlinked, they are united concepts and playfulness is the actual essence of play (Cornelli Sanderson, 2010; Youell, 2008). (p. 3)

Theories and definitions of playfulness (p. 3)

Among the first who coined the term was Lieberman (1965), who maintained that playfulness is an internal characteristic of children and that playfulness is a unitary trait characterised by five components: (a) physical spontaneity, (b) social spontaneity, (c) cognitive spontaneity, (d) manifest of joy, and (e) sense of humour. Lieberman (1965, 1966) based on those five components was the first who introduced an instrument in order to measure children’s playfulness. (p. 3)

As Barnett (1998) maintains, many authors report the existence of a playful personality trait, which refers to traits such as cheerful, joyous, humorous, and playful attitude, witty, energetic, being good natured, laughing readily, liking to participate with other people, imaginativeness, emotional expressiveness, curiosity, openness, novelty seeking, and communicativeness (p. 99). Recently, Barnett (2007) has defined playfulness as a ‘capacity to frame or reframe a situation in such a way as to provide oneself (and possibly others) with amusement, humour, and/or entertainment’ (p. 955). (p. 3)

Bundy (1997), playfulness is characterised by intrinsic motivation, internal control, the freedom to suspend reality, and framing. (p. 3)

According to Lindquist (2001), a playful disposition ‘represents a stance to the world and can permeate all spheres of life…playfulness can appear wherever agency and intentionality open space’ (p. 21). Morrison, Bundy, and Fisher (1991) define playfulness as ‘the combinations of a child’s feeling of control over the environment, internal motivation, and ability to be creative or imaginative’ (p. 688). (p. 3)

Examining the above-mentioned definitions, it becomes evident that there are two different approaches to playfulness. On the one hand, playfulness is encountered as a stable personality trait and on the other hand playfulness is viewed as depending on the context. (p. 4)

Importance of playfulness (p. 4)

Whereas a vast amount of research has been undergone in order to examine how play affects children’s overall development, this is not the case for playfulness. The limited research conducted indicates that playfulness helps children learn to relate to others, communicate, and become an individual through the context of play (Jenkinson, 2001); helps children deal with anxiety and frustration (Moran, 1987) and enables them to regulate their distress back to their baseline anxiety levels following an anxiety induction event (Barnett, 1998); enhances children’s creativity and problem solving abilities (Barnett, 1991a; Meador, 1992); helps children regulate, express and understand their emotions (Barnett, 1991a, 1991b, 1998); fosters children’s confidence (Barnett, 1991a) and the development and use of humour (Barnett, 1991a, 1991b, 2007; McGhee, 1979); promotes children’s healthy development and well being (Cornelli Sanderson, 2010; Lester & Russell, 2010); supports children show traits such as: confidence, imagination, mischievousness, intensity, cheerfulness, curiosity, adaptation, and impulsivity (Barnett, 1991b; Lieberman, 1965, 1977); reinforces children’s expression of affect in play, physical activity, imagination, and social interactions in play (Singer, Singer, & Sherrod, 1980). (p. 4)

On the other hand, less playful children seem to be considered as docile, dependent, disobedient, and less likely to seek novel situations or express themselves than playful peers (Barnett, 1991b). (p. 4)

Variables affecting playfulness (p. 4)

Research results indicate that playfulness as well as differences in playfulness depends on individual characteristics and variables (p. 4)

Literature review suggests that playfulness correlates with children’s personality (p. 4)

traits, personal and family characteristics (sex, age, birth order, family size), creativity, gender, temperament, the environment, parental attitudes towards play, and social and cultural factors (Barnett, 1991b, 1998; Cooper, 2000; Cornelli Sanderson, 2010; IzumiTaylor et al., 1999; Lieberman, 1965, 1977; Rigby, 2007; Trevlas, Matsouka, & Zachopoulou, 2003; Zachopoulou, 2003; Zachopoulou, Trevlas, & Tsikriki, 2004). (p. 5)

gender (p. 5)

age (p. 5)

birth order (p. 5)

social and cultural factors (p. 5)

environment (p. 5)

The present study (p. 6)

The reported study aims at recording Greek preschoolers’ playfulness and examining correlations among playfulness and personal and family characteristics (p. 6)

Method (p. 6)

Measures (p. 6)

Children’s Playfulness Scale: Barnett’s (1990, 1991a, 1991b) CPS constitutes a revised and improved version of Lieberman’s (1965, 1966) instrument. (p. 6)

23 items which are subdivided into the five components initially introduced by Lieberman. These are, according to Barnett (1998): physical spontaneity, which includes energy expenditure and physical challenge and risk elements (five items); social spontaneity, which includes the cooperative and competitive interactions with others and the apparent ease or lack of it as well as the leader–follower characterisation (four items); cognitive spontaneity, which includes the fine motor manipulations and symbolic activity as in imaginary themes and roles and the use of pretense (five items); manifest of joy, which includes the affective quality so evident in the spontaneity and exuberance of various play interactions both alone and with others (five items); and sense of humour, which refers to the verbalisations and mimicry and imitative rhyming (four items). (p. 7)

Analysis of results (p. 7)

In Table 1 are presented the mean scores assigned in each of the five components of playfulness and the scale as a whole. As shown in the table, the highest mean score was assigned in the cognitive spontaneity component (M 1⁄4 3.20) and the lowest mean score in the physical spontaneity component (M 1⁄4 2.17). (p. 7)

all playfulness components correlate among each other and there is also a significant correlation between playfulness components and the total playfulness. (p. 7)

In order to examine correlations of the five components of playfulness and the total playfulness ratings with children’s personal and family characteristics, bivariate correlations and multiple regression analysis were employed. (p. 8)

Results are presented in Table 4. As shown in the table, most of the personal and family’s characteristics variables are significantly correlated to both the components of playfulness and the total playfulness. (p. 9)

Discussion (p. 9)

Research results of the present study indicate that the preschoolers who participated in the study exhibit high levels of cognitive development (M 1⁄4 3.20) and sense of humour (M 1⁄4 2.90). On the contrary, the sample seems to show lower levels of physical spontaneity (M 1⁄4 2.17). (p. 9)

Our research results, in case they are substantiated by other research too, may suggest the need to shift into playful pedagogies and that children’s play is not solely fun and wandering. (p. 10)

Izumi-Taylor, Pramling Samuelsson, and Rogers (2010) based on their research results summarise the benefits stemming from play into the following themes: (1) play as a process of learning (children gain knowledge and skills); (2) play as a source of possibilities (children make choices and changes); (3) play as empowerment (children deal with life); (4) play as creativity (children foster originality and imagination); (5) play as children’s work (children understand their environment); (6) play as fun activities (children gain fun and pleasure). (p. 10)

Our research results may suggest that children are not provided with abundance of space in order to play and engage in physical activity. (p. 10)

Turning to correlation analysis results show significant correlations among the components of the CPS. This finding substantiates the argument that children’s areas of development are interrelated and interlinked (Berk, 2001; Bredekamp & Copple, 1998) and that play contributes into children’s overall development. (p. 10)

Another aim of the study was to explore whether personal and family characteristics affect playfulness. Correlation analysis revealed moderate and significant correlations between characteristics and the five components of playfulness as well as between characteristics and overall playfulness. More precisely, children’s age has been found to be negatively correlated with the social spontaneity component. (p. 11)

This paragraph confirm my earlier doubt on the ‘causation vs. correlation’ on this paper.
Also, correlations found in this paper are generally weak (< .3; not moderate).
In addition, the author should also make it clear which measures were used for each bivariate correlation analysis. Unclear from the table.
(The discussion is hard to follow. Too many short paragraphs, with sporadic ideas here and there — at least from my perception.) (p. 11)

Children’s type of family (nuclear, single parent and extended) has been found to be correlated with total playfulness as well with all playfulness components but from the social spontaneity component. (p. 11)

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