Childhood Playfulness as a Predictor of Adult Playfulness and Creativity: A Longitudinal Study

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Virginia Tech


The primary purpose of this study was to examine the strength of the relationship between childhood playfulness and adult playfulness. The relationship between adult playfulness and adult creativity was also examined along with the relationship between child playfulness and adult creativity. Exploratory interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of individuals to provide insight into subjects' perceptions of their own playfulness as well as life experiences they perceived to be related to stability or change in their own playfulness. Specifically, the researcher interviewed one subject in each of four categories: (1) low childhood playfulness scores but high adult playfulness scores (2) low childhood playfulness scores and low adult playfulness scores (3)high childhood playfulness scores but low adult playfulness scores and (4) high childhood playfulness scores and high adult playfulness scores.

The Adult Behaviors Inventory (ABI) and the Student Self-Evaluation of Creativity (SSEC) were completed by 27 young adults from a pool of 103 subjects who had participated in a previous study in the period from 1985-1987, more than 15 years ago. The Adult Behaviors Inventory, an adaptation of the Child Behaviors Inventory (CBI) that was used to rate these subjects between 1985-1987, was completed by 31 mothers for a son or daughter. The total sample (n = 36) for this study consisted of 17 females (47.2%) and 19 males (52.8%). The mean age of the subjects was 20.32 at the time of the follow-up study. Participants were from well-educated middle class families, and 96.2% of the participants were enrolled in college or had completed a college degree.

Pearson correlation coefficients computed to determine the strength of the relationships among variables of interest and they yielded these results: (a) Childhood playfulness during the preschool years as rated by mothers using the CBI was not significantly related to maternal ratings on the ABI, self-ratings on the ABI, or self-ratings on the SSEC. (b) Adult playfulness as self-reported by the same participants (now young adults) using the Adult Behaviors Inventory (ABI) was significantly related to maternal ratings on the ABI and self-ratings on the SSEC. Self-rated ABI scores were not significantly related to maternal or teachers' ratings on the CBI. (c) Adult creativity scores obtained from self-reports using the Students Self-Evaluation of Creativity Scale was not related to maternal or teachers' ratings on the CBI. Creativity scores on the SSEC were significantly related to both maternal and self-ratings on the ABI. (d) Adult playfulness as reported by each participant's mother was significantly related to self-ratings on the ABI and SSEC.

Short structured interviews with a purposive sample of subjects representing low or high playfulness in childhood and adulthood indicated that the interviewees were able to accurately identify their own playfulness classification even though the survey questionnaire was designed so as not to make it obvious that playfulness was the focus of the study. Interview data pointed to possible links between life events and playfulness.



preschool children, longitudinal study, creativity, adult playfulness, child playfulness, young adults