Levels of positive risk-taking and peer context in preschoolers’ play

Year: 2010

Author: Little, Helen, Wyver, Shirley, Gibson, Frances

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Abstract:
The aim of this study was to identify whether preschool aged children’s positive risk-taking in play is influenced by peer context. Research on children’s risk-taking has traditionally had a focus on the negative aspects of risk, especially behaviours that lead to significant and easily preventable unintentional injury. More recently, researchers have started to consider the positive aspects of risk-taking in young children’s play, particularly as such behaviours support children’s physical development. Recognition of the importance of risk-taking in play is represented in recent policy and curriculum documents (e.g. QIAS and EYLF) with early childhood teachers encouraged to promote such behaviours. Despite this, little is known about the social and physical contexts that support positive risk-taking and how these might interact with individual characteristics of children. Such information is important, especially as attempts to increase positive risk-taking in play can be counteracted by ‘surplus safety’ (i.e. excessive attempts to ensure children’s environments are safe and injury free). Although there is promotion of positive risk-taking in play in the aforementioned documents, regulatory requirements, as written and implemented, generally have a bias towards risk minimisation or removal. The present study was conducted at a Sydney Child Care Centre. Twelve children, 4 girls and 8 boys (age range 48 to 60 months, M = 54.57, SD = 5.20) were videorecorded during free play sessions. Videos were coded for both positive and negative risk-taking and levels of risk-taking using a scheme developed by the first author (Little & Eager, in press) and the number of peers present during social participation. Results indicate that the impact of peers is limited, but that play involving pairs of peers is associated with low level negative risk-taking. Limitations of the results, including the exploratory nature of this study, are discussed.

Key Phrase: Risk-taking, outdoor play, peer interaction, surplus safety

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