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By Diana Kelly-Byrne

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Additional resources for A Childs Play Life: An Ethnographic Study (Early Childhood Education, No 20)

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Other scholars have pictured play as a biological mechanism in the struggle for survival. As such it has been conceived as functioning as a kind of atavism, race memory, preparatory activity, or abreaction (Erikson, 1940; Freud, 1976; Groos, 1901; Hall, 1917). Yet others have treated play as a neurological manifestation and seen it as functioning to maintain equilibrium and consolidate information (Piaget, 1952). In a different but related vein, attention is given to environmental principles of stimulus arrangement, such as novelty and conflict, and these are seen as instigators of play.

We appear to live in a society in which such psychological information receives the reverence once reserved for religion and social status. The point of all of this is that the discontinuity between ourselves and our children is now deeply engrained. The whole force of educated opinion in society is devoted to keeping our children clean, sexless, nondisgusting, nonaggessive, rational, and tidy. In respect to our children, we administer a subtle puritanism, which is none the less real for being disguised in the gawdiness of consumer wrappings.

Although the research has suggested some of the functional and structural aspects of the behavior, it has done little to give us a sense of how play manifests itself in the lives of children in everyday settings, or of the complex ways in which children manage it for their own ends, irrespective of functionality or dysfunctionality in adult terms. Recent Alternative Approaches In contrast to the literature of mainstream psychology is a body of work that has perceived play rather differently. Gaining import in the last 10 years or so, it has been influenced by an interpretive science model for understanding the meaning of human conduct.

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