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Haight, W. L., Wang, Xiao-Lei., Fung, H. H. Williams, K., & Mintz, J. (1999) Universal, Developmental, and Variable Aspects of Young Children’s Play: a Cross-Cultural Comparison of Pretending at Home. Child Development Perspectives, 70(6), 1477-1478

What diversity/subjectivity topics are they discussing?

cultural variations in children’s development or pretend play

Your summary or comments on the article

In play therapy the therapist may have assumptions about the content, process, and meaning of play that are not informed by awareness of how children develop in different cultures. In order to serve diverse children and their families, we need to have a variety of lenses through which to observe play.


Using longitudinal data from five Irish American families in the United States and nine Chinese families in Taiwan, in conjunction with an emerging body of evidence in the cultural psychology literature, we propose universal, culturally variable, and developmental dimensions of young children’s pretend play. Possible universal dimensions include the use of objects, and the predominantly social nature of pretend play. Developmental dimensions include increases in the proportion of social pretend play initiated by the child, the proportion of partner initiations elaborated upon by the child, and caregivers’ use of pretend play initiations to serve other, nonplay social functions. Culturally variable dimensions include the centrality of objects, the participation of specific play partners, the extent of child initiations of social pretend play with caregivers, the various functions of social pretend play in interaction, and specific themes. These findings raise the theoretical issue of how universal and variable dimensions of pretend play interact in specific communities to create distinctive development pathways.

Resource contributed by:

Tom Holman

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