Temperament and the disposition to play: sources of shared variance

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The possible relationship between parental perceptions of playfulness and temperament was examined. Parents completed the Behavioral Style Questionnaire and the Child Behaviors Inventory. Children were tested using the Weschsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence to examine the effect of IQ on perceived playfulness. Fathers‘ ratings of playfulness were correlated with paternal ratings of approachability and maternal ratings of persistence. Mothers' ratings of playfulness were correlated with maternal ratings of persistence and adaptability and paternal ratings of persistence. Distractibility, intensity, and threshold were correlated with parental ratings of externality. No correlations were found between parental ratings of playfulness or externality.

IQ scores were found to have no significant relationship to parental ratings of playfulness and temperament. Playfulness is a construct distinct from temperament but which can be explained, in part, by temperamental traits which, like externality, detract from the child's propensity to enter into a playful dispositional state. Externality seems to overlap with certain temperament traits which describe the child's propensity to react in particular ways to the context. Future experimental research is needed to assess the contextual influences on playful dispositions. Observational and interview data are also needed to assess whether parental differences in playfulness ratings are attributable to differential perceptions or to contextual variables or to an interaction between the two.