Mother-Child Play: Sequential Interactions and the Relation between Maternal Beliefs and Behaviors

Mother-Child Play: Sequential Interactions and the Relation between Maternal Beliefs and Behaviors Amy Melstein Damast Albert Ehistein College of Medicine Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda New York University Marc H. Bornstein National Institute of Child Health and Human Development DAMAST, AMY MELSTEIX. T.\Mrs-LEMoxDA, CATHERINE S., and BOHNSTEIX, MARC H . Mother-Child Play: Sequential Interactions and the Relation between Maternal Beliefs and Rehaviors. CHILD DEVELOPMENT, 1996, 67, 17.52-1766. This investigation of mother and toddler play had 2 goals. The primary goal was to examine the t>'pes of play mothers introduce in direct response to their tpddlers' play.

A secondary' and exploratory goal was to examine the relation between maternal knowledge about child play and actual maternal play behaviors. 50 mothers and their 21-monthold toddlers were observed at home duimg free play. Mother and child explorator>', nonsymbolic, and symbolic play were coded. Sequential analyses revealed that mothers adjusted their play to their children's play level by responding to their children with play that was either at the same level or at a higher level than their children's play. Furthermore, mothers who were more knowledgeable about early play development more often responded to their children's play by introducing higher level play.

These flndings suggest that mothers tend to play with their toddlers in ways that might promote their child's development, and that mothers with more knowledge about play development provide their children with appropriately challenging play interactions.

In Western cultures, play often occurs dren's play? Second, if mothers do respond in a social setting (Haight & Miller, 1993). differentially to their children's play, does In the child's first few years, when new cogmothers' knowledge about early play develnitive and social skills are developing, a opment relate to mothers' actual play with more knowledgeable social partner, like their children? mother, is thought to facilitate the development of more sophisticated play. Two reIn the first year, children learn about oblated questions about maternal play behavjects m their environment through exploraiors were investigated in the present study, tion—they mouth, look at, and manipulate First, are mothers sensitive to their chilthem (e.g., Belsky & Most, 1981; Bornstein dren's play abilities, adjusting their own & Lamb, 1992; Fein, 1981; Nicolich, 1977; play as a function ofthe level of their chilPiaget, 1962).

Near the end ofthe first year. This article is based on a dissertation submitted by the flrst author m partial fulfillment of the requirements for the doctoral degree in the Department of Psycholog\' at New York University. A.M.D. was supported by an N.Y.U. Predoctoral Fellowship; by research grants HD20559, HD20807, and MH48915, by an IKTA Fellowship from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and by post-doctoral fellowship grant T32HD07384 C T.-L was supported by research grants HD20559. HD20807, and MH48915. M.H.B. was supported by research grants HD20559 and HD20807.

and by a Research Career Development Award HD00521 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. A.M.D. thanks the members of her dissertation committee, D. Ruble, D. Frye, H. Oster, and J. Daws, for their helpful comments and suggestions. We also thank L. Baumwell, L. Cyphers, H. Comes, J. Jankowski, R. Kahana-Kalman, S. Kazas, J. McClure, S. Rose, H. Ruff, and C Schmidt for their assistance. Requests for reprints should be addressed to Amy Melstem Damast or Catherine Tamis-LeMonda, Department of Applied Psychology', New York Universitv, 239 Creene Street- 5th Floor, New York, NY 10003.

[Child Development. 1996.67,1752-1766. © 1996 by the Societyfor Research in Child Development, Inc. All rights resented. 6o09-3920/96/6704-0026S01 00]

Damast, Tamis-LeMonda, and Bornstein 1753 children begin to engage in nonsymbolic play as they examine the unique qualities and functions of objects (e.g., pushing buttons on toy phones, stacking blocks, nesting cups). During the second year, play more often takes on a nonliteral "as if" quality, as children incorporate difFerent forms of symbolic play into their repertoires (see Belsky & Most, 1981; Bornstein & O'Reilly, 1993; Fein, 1981; Fenson, Kagan, Kearsley, & Zelazo, 1976; Fenson & Ramsev, 1980; McCune-Nicolich, 1981; Nicohch, 1977; Schaefer, Gitlin, & Sandgrund, 1991; TamisLeMotida & Bornstein, 1995; TamisLeMonda, Damast, & Bornstein, 1994; Ungerer, Zelazo, Kearsley, & O'Leary, 1981; Watson & Fischer, 1977).

hiile children's play increases in sophistication with age, at any one age children exhibit different levels of play in different social contexts (e.g., Fiese, 1990; O'Connell & Bretherton, 1984). One possible explanation for this obsen'ation can be found in Vygotsky's theory of the zone of proximal development Vygotsky (1978) suggested that children may function between two levels of development—their actual developmental level and their potential developmental level (i.e., the level at which they can function iii collaboration with a more experienced partner). Vygotsky and others (e.g., RogofF, 1990; RogofF & Wertsch, 1984; Wertsch, 1984, 1985; Zukow, 1986) suggest that more advanced partners structure interactions that exceed children's actual level and approach children's potential level, thereby helping to advance children's actual level of development.

For example, O'Connell and Bretherton (1984) demonstrated increases in children's play diversity (a measure fqund to relate to later play sophistication and intelligence) during collabora;tive play with mother as compared to solitary play. Similarly, Fiese (1990) showed tl^at toddlers spent a greater percentage of their time in nonsjTnbolic and symbolic play, and a lower percentage of their time in exploratory piay, during mother-child play than during play alone.

O'Connell and Bretherton {1984) reported, that it is not simply a mother's presence, but her active participation, that accounts for differences in children's play across social contexts. Maternal physical attention-focusing behaviors during interaction have been found to predict greater exploratory competence (i.e., a weighted composite measure of exploration, nonsymbolic play, and symbolic play) during the first and second years (Belsky, Goode, & Most, 1980), as well as greater nonsymbolic play (and less simple exploration) during the toddler years (Fiese, 1990). Maternal involvement and turn-taking behaviors are negatively associated with simple exploration during toddlerhood (Fiese, 1990).

In addition, Tamis-LeMonda and Bornstein (1991) found that mothers' own play behaviors (i.e., gestural and verbal solicitations and demonstrations of play activities) with their children relate to their children's play behaviors: Mothers who engage in more symbolic play with their 13- and 20-monthoids have toddlers who engage in more symbolic play at these ages.

The literature on maternal responsiveness and child cognitive development implies that contingency in maternal interactive behaviors might also be central to children's play behaviors (e.g., Bakeman, Adamson, Brown, & Eldridge, 1989; Baumwell. Tamis-LeMonda, & Bornstein, 1996; Beckwith & Cohen, 1989; Bornstein, 1989; Bornstein & Tamis-LeMonda, 1989; Bornstein, Tamis-LeMonda, et al., 1992; Olson, Bates, & Bayles, 1984; Olson, Bayles, & Bates, 1986). This literature demonstrates that it is not merely the Frequency of positive maternal interactive behaviors that Facilitates children's development, but rather both the contingency (i.e., the temporal and sequential relation) and the appropriateness (i.e., the content, sophistication, or topic) oF mothers' behaviors in the context oF the ongoing interaction.

In other words, maternal behaviors have a positive influence on children's development when those behaviors are both appropriate to and contingent on children's behaviors.

With respect to the appropriateness oF maternal play behaviors, developmental studies suggest tliat the level and the Frequency oF mothers' play relate to their children's age and ability (Belsky et al., 1980; Brooks-Gunn & Lewis, 1984^ Fiese, 1990; Tamis-LeMonda & Bornstein, 1991). As a group, mothers tend to suggest more sophisticated play to children when their children are older and more capable oF this type oF play (Tamis-LeMonda & Bornstein, 1991). In addition, mothers tend to support their children's autonomy by offering fewer play suggestions as children grow older (Belsky et al., 1980; Fiese, 1990).

Thus, it appears that mothers are generally sensitive to their children's play abilities in that they change their behaviors appropriately with child age.

1754 Child Development Little is known, however, about the contingency (i.e., responsiveness) of maternal play to children's play. Are mothers adjusting their play responsively to the individual play behaviors of their children (i.e., on an episode-by-episode basis)? The first goal of this investigation was to address this Qiiestion. Our expectation was that mothers woiild respond appropriately and contingently to their children's play on an episodeby-episode basis. Within the context of group sensitivity to child play behaviors, we expected to find variability in the extent to which individual mothers adjust their play to their children's play.

The second, exploratory goal ofthis investigation was, therefore, to examine whether rnothers' ability to respond sensitively on an episode-by-episode basis to their children's play is, at least in part, explained by their knowledge ofthe progressive nature of children's play. It has been suggested that mothers' knowledge about eertain developing abilities in children relates to their behaviors with their children (e,g., Goodnow, 1988; Goodnow & Collins, 1990; Hunt & Paraskevopoulos. lOSO; Kophanska, 198|0; McGltlicuddy-DeLisi, 1982; Miller, 198S'. Sigel, McGiliicuddy-DeLisi, & Goodnow, 1992; Tamis-LeMonda et al., 1!J94).

In a comprehensive review of parental knowledge of development. Miller (1988) note^ that parents are gene.rally accurate in their knowledge of developmental milestones, and tliat variatioi:i among parents in the aepuraey of their knowledge is predictive (albeit modestly) of their behaviors wifh their children. Accordingly, we assessed the a^ccuracy of mothers' knowledge ofthe relative difficultj,' of'vrarious chilcl play acts and asked whether this knowledige acpounts for variation among mothers in their responsive play behaviors.

Method Participants Fifty mothers (M age = 33 years, SD = 3.4) and their firstborn, 21-month-oId children (Mage = 651 days, SD = 8.5; 26 males, 24 females) participated in this study. Families were recruited from a pediatric unit in a large urban university hospital and from Ioeal obstebic groups. All children had un- 1 The entire home visit consisted of four videotaped sessions occumng in a standardized order- 10 min ofthe child playing alone with a standard set of toys, 10 mm of mother-child tree play with another set of toys, 10-15 min of experimenter-child play using a third set of toys, and 45 min of naturalistic interaction (during which mdtfeers were free to do whatever they pleased with or without their childien).

eventful perinatal histories and were healthy and free of any known developmental delays during the course ofthe study. They were all from middleand uppermiddle-class intact families (M = 57.7, SD = 7.6, on the Hollingshead Four Factor Index of Social Status, 1975; Gottfried, 1985), with 90% of mothers hiiving completed 4 or more years of college. At the 21-month visit, 45 of the 50 were only children, one had a. lO-month-old sibling, and four had a sibling younger than 4months. Play at Home Procedures.—Dyads were visited m their homjas at a time convenient to mother and child and when only the two would be present.

Data from a 10-min mother-child free-play session, part ofa larger home visit, are the focus ofthe present report.^ Mother and child were filmed while playing with a standard set of toys that included cups, plates, spoons, teapot and cover, doll, baby blanket, baby battle, bus with removable peopie, sponge, telephone, blocks, and a set of nesti:ng cups. The toy set represented objects With whieh all children were familiar in their everyday routines and which lend tiiemselves to a variety of age-appropriate actMties. Each mother was instructed to sit with her child and behave as she normally would when she and her child played.

In additioii, mothers were asked to ignore the expenmenter''s presence to the extent possible. Mothers were told that they could use any or all of the toys provided, but that the chiM's own ttoys should not be included in die play session.

Coding.—Mother play and child play were fioded from Tiddeotapes using an objectcentered, event-sampling procedure. Both partaers' play was coded using; the mutually eiclusive codes of exploration, nonsymbolic play, and symbolic play; during times when chiiireri were not engaged in one of these three types of play for 2 or more seconds, theywere assigned a code af off-task. Maternal play could be verbal (e.g., saying "drink some tea"), gestural (e.g., pretending to pour from a teapot into a cup and handing the cup to tlae qhild to drink), or a combination ofthe (eig., saying "let's drink tea" and prel to (feink from a teaeup).

The onset i occurred with the start ofa

Damast, Tamis-LeMonda, and Bornstein 1755 mother's vocalization (e.g., "Call daddy on the phone") in the case of verbal or verbalgestural play, or with the start of her gesture (e.g., handing an object to her child, pointing to an object) or demonstration (e.g., pushing buttons on a telephone) in the case of gestural play. Children's play was always based on gestures accompanied by visual regard and could occur with or without vocalizations. For example, if a child pretended to drink from a teacup, the child's action was coded as a single, self-directed symbolic act, whether or not the child said "drink tea." Children's play was coded from the onset of the child's regard.

Children's voadizations in the absence of gestures were not coded as play to avoid confounding symbolic play ability with language ability. For both mother and child, play events terminated when the player looked at another object, engaged in a thematically unrelated action vvith the same object, or tumed attention from the toys altogether for a period of 2 or more seconds. As mentioned, when a child directed attention away from the toys for 2 or more seconds, the behavior was coded as off-task.

Based on the above mother and child play codes, sequences of play acts were obtained by assigning each maternal play act a code indicating the child's activity' prior to or at the onset of the act. For example, if mother s^id "talk on the phone" after the child manipuiated the phone, the mother's play was coded as symbolic play preceded by child exploration. Likewise, ifmother put the lid on the teapot while the child was "drinldng" from a teacup, the motlier's play was coded as nonsymbolic play preceded by a child symbolic act.^ Due to the sequential nature of interaction, coders made one pass thrpugh the videotapes, coding both mother and toddler play togettier.

Coders were encouraged to stop and replay segments of interaction to maximize coding accuracy. Interrater agreement.—Interrater reliabilities were obtained by having two coders independently score ail mother and child play behaviors on 10% ofthe sampie for the entire 10-min session. A.s a first step to assessing interrater agreement, we examined how often coders agreed on the identification of an event, calculated for children's and mothers' play separately: percent agreement was 84% for both child and mother play events. For play acts on which both coders agreed, reliabilities were calculated for the level of child play (i.e., for all ehild acts, whether or not mother responded), the level of maternal play, and the level of the child act that preceded maternal play in the sequence (i.e., only child acts to which mother responded).

Cohen's kappa was used as a conservative measure of reliability (Bakeman & Gottman, 1986). Kappas were good to excellent for each code: K = .67 for child play level (range = .62 to .76), K = .77 for maternal play level (range = .58 to .95), and K . = .66 for preceding child level (range = .54 to .73).

Maternal Knowledge of Play Mothers' knowledge of child play was assessed using a questionnaire mailed to them 1 week prior to the home visit and collected by the experimenter at the completion of the visit. The play activities on the questionnaire represented one example of each ofthe levels of a hypothesized 24-level play scale (Tamis-LeMonda et al., 1994; Appendix A). This 24-level play scale was developed by integrating previousfindingsextant in the literature in order to create a more comprehensive description ofearly developmental progressions in play (see Belsky & Most, 1981; Fenson et al., 1976; Fenson & Ramsey, 1980; McCune-Nicolich, 1981; Nicolich, 1977; Tamis-LeMonda & Bornstein, 1991; Ungerer et al., 1981; Watson & Fischer, 1977).

Seven important transitions were incorporated into the scale: (1) the transition from simple exploration to nonsymbolic play; (2) the transition from nonsymbolic play to sy-mbolic play; (3) the transition from seif-directed pretense to other-directed pretense; (4) the transition from animate-directed pretense to inanimate-directed pretense; (5) the transition from single acts of pretense to sequenced acts of pretense; (6) the transition from agentive pretense to vicarious pretense; and (7) the transitionfromliteral pretense to substitutive pretense. Moreover, there is some consensus that eertain transitions occur before others; for example, the transition from self-directed to other-directed play is expected to occur before the transition from literal to substitutive play, on account ofthe This code system does not imply that the child is always the "initiator" and the mother always the "respondent" in the interaction.

Sequences provide no information conceming which partner established the topic focus; instead, they describe only how a mother responded to a particular behavior on the part ofthe child.

1756 Child Development more complex cognitive demands of substitutive play (i.e., substituting one object for another requires decontextualization from the object, whereas other-directed play does not). Additionally, the scale incorporates the notion that combinations of components of play are more difficult to master than are single components of play. For exainpie, pretending to feed a doH with a block (Le., a combination of pretense toward an inanimate otiier and substitutive pretense) is jmore difficult than pretending to feed a doll with a toy bottle (i.e., a single act of pretense toward an inanimate other), preliminary' analyses support the hypothesized ordering of these 24 levels of play (Tamis-LeMonda, Albright, Damast, Fox, & Bornstein, 1995).

In a sample of 108 21-month-old cMtdren (including the 50 children in the present study) playing alone with the same standard set of toys, the presence or absence of each ofthe 24 play levels waS coded. The play levels were then rankordered based ofli Uie percentage of children engaging in each level. The linearity ofthe hypothesized scale was tested by comparing these rank-orderings with the ordering in the proposed scale using Kendairs tau. The tau was signifiGant, tau = .72, p < .001, indiCE^ting substaiitial agreement between the hypothesized play scale and the order observed during toddlers' solitary play.

Examples ofthe 2,4 play levels were preseiited in random order on the questionnaire, (The labels of the play levels that appear in Appendix A were not provided.) Mothers were asfed to rarik the 24 different play activities iix order of increasing difficillti,', wfith 1 being the easiest and 24 the most difficult Results Results are discussed in the following order. f;irst, base rates of the three levels of maternal play, the four levels of child play, and the rates with which these child levels precedecl maternal play are presented and analvzed using analyses of variance. Second, analyses of the sequences of mother and child piay behaviors are reported.

The goal of these analyses was to describe dependencies of maternal play on preceding child play. Finally, relations between maternal knowledge of child play development and observed maternal play are reported. For these analyses, measures of the accuracy of materiial knowledge of progressions in child play and specific patterns of maternal responsive play were related to one another. For each set of analyses, dyads that did not have complete data on all pertinent variables were not included. For example, in ANOVAs investigating matenial nonsymbolic play, mothers who did not engage in nonsymbolic play were necessarily excluded.

As a consequence, reported results are based on samples of 42 to 50 dyads. Prior to analysis, data were examined for extreme bivariate outliers using scatterplots. Cook's D, Stud.enti2ed Deleted Residual, and Leverage statistics. Four dya:ds whose individual data altered the significance ofthe correlations (either positively or negatively) between maternal knowledge about play arid ma^ternal play behaviors were excluded from tfte correlation analyses (Judd & MeClelland, 1989). Finally, because the AMO'teAs reVealed no consistent differences in the base rates of maternal and child play by chiid gerider, and there were no gender differetiees in any ofthe sequential analyses, results are presented for the entire sample.

Descriptive Analyses of Base Rates of Mother and Child Play The mean frequencies and proportions (number of maternal play acts at each level of play divided by the total number of maternal plaj' acts, calculated separately for each mpthelr) of tlie three levels pf maternal play are presented in Table 1. A within-subjects rejaeatfed-measures ANOVA identified significMt differences in the base rates (i.e., frequebiCies) ofthe differerit play levels, F(2, 98) = lCP.94,p < .001. Specifically, mothers pidtflptfid more symbolic play than either expiorkton or nonsymbolic play, is(49) = Xi.64 aitd 10.67, respectively, ps < .001.

They showed no difference in their rates of esplofation and nonsynabolic play, f(49) < I. (Ptfesnits for all descriptive analyses were identicsil when transfortned proportions were used as the dependent measure.) The mean frequencies and proportions (nurnt>er of child play actsat each play level diyi&d by the total rmmber of child play acts, paJeuiated separately for each child) of the three childi play levels and off-task episodes are also presented in Table 1. These rates rgpi-esent the tdtal number of child acts diujdg Ilie play session (iiot just the subset of chiilcl acts to which mcfjhars responded).

A within-subjects repeated-fioeasures ANOVA e differences in rates, F(3, 147) = , p < .001^ Child(eii engaged in explo-

Damast, Tamis-LeMonda, and Bornstein 1757 TABLE 1 BASE R\TES OF MATERNAL PL.4IY AND CHILD ACTIVITIES BY LEVEL Level of Play Mean Range SD Mother: Exploratory 9.5 (.20) 0-24 (.00-.46) 5.0 (.10) Nons>'mbolic 8.8 (.18) 0-27 (.00-.52) 6.6 (.12) Symbolic 30.8 (.63) 4-63 (.14-.93) 12.7 (.16) Child: Explorator\' 35 9 (.43) 13-51 (.24-.59) 8.4 (.08) Nonsymbolic 11.8 (.14) 0-30 f.00-.28) 7.4 (.08) Symbolic 18.2 (.22) 5-43 (.07-.40) 7.5 (.08) OfF-task 18 2 (.22) 10-.32 (.11-.35) 5.4 ( 05) NOTE —Proportions in parentheses. ration more often than they were off-task or engaged in nonsymbolic or symbolic play, ts(49) = 13.50, 17.89, and 11.60, ps < .001, respectively.

(This may occur because children often orient to and explore objects before engaging in nonsymbolic and symbolic play.) In addition, children were off-task or engaged in symbolic play more frequently than they engaged in nonsymbolic play, ts(49) = 5.04 and 3.93, ps < .001, respectively. There was no difference in the rates at which children were off-task or engaged in symbolic play, f(49) < 1. The mean frequencies and proportions (number of maternal piay acts in response to each level of child play divided by the total number of maternal play acts, calculated separately for each dyad) of mothers' play responses to each level of child play are presented in Table 2.

Maternal play responses were collapsed across level of maternal play in order to question what mothers were responding to in their children's play, exclusive of how they were responding. A withinsubjects repeated-measures ANOVA indicated a difference in the number of times mothers responded to the different levels of child play, F(3, 147) = 42.14, p < .001. Specifically, greater numbers of maternal play responses were offered when children were either off-task or exploring than when they were engaged in either nonsymbolic or symbolic play, ^(49) = 9.67, p < .001. Additionally, mothers responded more frequently when children were engaged in exploration than when they were off-task or engaged in nonsymbolic or symbolic play, ts{49) = 4.12, 11.17, and 6.05, respectively, ps < .001.

Mothers also responded more frequently when children were off-task than when they were eagaged in nonsymbolic or symbolic play, ts{49) = 8.30 and 2.72, ps < .001 and .01, respectively. Lastly, mothers responded more frequently when children were engaged in symbolic play than when they were engaged in nonsymbolic play, t(49) = 3.95, p < 001.

The Sequential Nature of Mother-Child Play Interactions Mother-child play sequences were analyzed by first calculating transitional probabilities for all combinations of the three levels of maternal play (i.e., exploration, nonsymbolic play, symbolic play) and four TABLE 2 M.\TEHNAL PLAY BY LEVEL OF PRECEDING CHILD PL^Y ACT Level of Preceding Child Play Act Mean Range SD Off-task" . 12.6 (.29) 3-28 (.12-.53) 5.5 (.10) Exploratory 17 0 (.38) .3-39 (.15-.61) 7.7 (.10) Nonsymbolic 5 6 (.12) 0-16 (.00-33) 4.4 (.08) Symbolic 9.7 (.22) 0-25 (.00-..50) 6.1 (.12) NOTE —Proportions in parentheses " OfF-task episodes iire included as child play acts because they, like child play acts, represent children's attention at the time mothers choose to o£fer play suggestions.

1758 Chad Development levels of preceding child play (i.e., off-taslc, exploration, norisymbolic play, symbolic play), using the formulas and procedures detailed by Bakeman and Gottman (1986). These transitional probabilities were then converted to z scores, and the z scores were used as dependent variables in subsequent analyses. Z scores control for the base rates of both the "given" and "target" behaviors. Table 3 provides descriptive data of the frequencies of the 12 child play—mother play sequences.

Z scores were used to examine differences between tte observed rates ofthe sequeiices and their expected rates given the observed base rate probabilities of the individual "given" and "target" events (i.e., Bakeman & Gottman's, 1986, "first-order" mode! for generating expected probabilities).

For exampie, a large positive z score associated with a particular sequence would sign!ffy a greater occurrence of that sequence than would be expected by chance given the base rates of both the child level an^ the mother play level, a large negative z score assoiiiated with the same sequence would indicate a lower probability ofthis sequence than vvould be expected by chance. Jhe dependency of mother play on child play was examined in two ways. First, using one-sample t tests (witli the mean z scoris for each sequence as the dependent variable), the probability of each child play-^ mother play sequence was compared with its expected probability (i.e., chance).^ For example, the probability' of maternal symbolic play subsequent to a ehild engaging in exploration, adjusted for the probabilities of both child exploration and materrial symbolic play, was cpnjpflretd With the simple probability of maternal syrtibolic play (i.e., the probability of matem^ synibolic play occurring by chance).

Thus, Hie effect of each child play level on the probability of each maternal play level was determined. In addition, for each level of maternal play, tlie probabilities of the four child play-mother piay sequences were also ccjHipared to one another. For example/the lifcelihood of maternal symbolic play given ehiid exploration was compared to the likelihood of maternal symboiic^play given child ndnsy-mbolic play. To do so, z scores for all aftbie sequences of maternal play and clillci preceding level were entered into a 3 (maternal piay level) X 4 (preceding child play level) withinsubjects repeated-measures ANOVA to compare the difference from expected probability' ofthe differen.t sequences.

This ANOVA indicated ^ significant interaction of maternal play level x preceding child play level, F(6, 258) = 33.73, p < .001. These results are presented in Table 4.

Figure 1 displays z scores for each child play-mather plag sequence. When comparing the four maternal exploratory z scores to cbaiice, maternal exploratory play was preceded by child ofF-task episodes significantly more often than would be expected by chance, f(49) = 8.43, p < .001, and it was preceded by child exploration, nonsymbolic play, and symbolic play less often than would be expected by chance,

Damast, Tamis-LeMonda, and Bornstein 1759 TABLE 3 MATERNAL PLAY BY LEVEL AXD BY LEVEL OF PRECEDING CHILD PLAY Level of Maternal Play and Level of Preceding Child Play Mean Maternal exploratory play; Child off-task ' 4.4 Child exploration 2.8 Child nonsjnnbolie play 0.8 Child symbolic play 0.8 Maternal nonsymbolic play.

Child off-task 2.1 Child exploration 3.3 Child nonsymbolic play 2.2 Child symbolic play 0.6 Maternal symbolic play: Child off-task 6.2 Child exploration 10.6 Child Bonsymbolic play 2.6 Child symbolic play 8 3 Range SD 0-13 0-8 0-.5 0-4 0-7 0-16 0-9 0-3 1-16 2-23 0-10 0-24 3.1 2.3 1.2 1.1 1 7 3 4 2.5 0.8 3.6 .5.2 2.5 5.6 TABLE 4 DiFFEREXCES IN Z SCORES RY MATEFXAL LEVEL AXD BY PRECEDING CHILD LEVEL Maternal Play Level and Comparison of Preceding Child Level n* t p Exploratory: O-T vs. EXP 49 7.30 .001 O-T vs. NS 45 6.60 .001 O-T vs. SYM 48 8.64 .001 EXP vs. NS 45 -0.49 EXP vs. SYM 48 180 .078 NS vs.

SYM 45 2.97 .005 Nonsymbolic: O-T vs. EXP 49 -1.42 O-Tvs. NS 45 -4.80 .001 O-T vs. SYM 48 4.35 .001 EXPvs. NS 45 -3.86 .001 EXP vs. SYM 48 5.92 .001 NS vs. SYM 45 9.37 .001 SjTnbolic: O-T vs. EXP 50 -4.95 .001 O-Tvs. NS 46 -1.45 O-T vs. SYM 49 -9.71 .001 EXP vs. NS 46 4.23 .001 EXP vs. SYM 49 -6.31 .001 NS vs. SYM 46 -9.57 .001 NOTE —O-T off-task; EXP. exploraticn, NS: nonsymbolic play, SYMsymbolic play ^ n for each analysis vanes as a result of tbe absence of certain sequences in lndiwdual dyads ration at a rate expected by chance, f(49) = 1.32, N.S. Gonsequently, when comparing the four maternal symbolic play z scores to each other, child s\TTibolic play increased the likelihood of maternal symbolic play significantly more than did child off-task episodes, exploration, and nonsymbolic play, t(48) = 9.71, t{4o) = 9.57, and t(48) = 6.31, respectively, ps < .001.

In summary, sequential analyses revealed noteworthy patterns with respect to both increases and decreases in the likelihood of certain levels of maternal play given certain levels of child play. When children were off-task or engaged in exploration, the greatest increase in probability (although not always a significant increase above the rate expected by chance) occurred at a maternal play level one level higher than children's play level (i.e., mothers suggested exploration when children were off-task, and nonsymbolic plav when children were exploring). In contrast, when children engaged in nonsymbolic and symbolic play, the greatest increase in probability occurred at a maternal play level that matched the preceding child activity (i.e., mothers suggested nonsymbolic play when children engaged in nonsymbolic pla}/, and symbolic play when children engaged in symbolic play).

Maternal play that was either lower or much higher (i.e., three levels higher) than children's ongoing play decreased in likelihood. Exploratory analyses were conducted next to determine whether mothers were responding to their children's nonsymbolic

  • 1760 Child Development z~score 1.50 r 1.00 0.50 0.00 -0.50 -1.00 -1.50 Exploratory Nonsymboiic Maternal Play Level Symbolic ^ B Child Off-task i -I Chiid Nonsymbolic Child Exploratory Child Symbolic
  • p < 06, " p < 01
  • p < 001 FIG 1.—Maternal play level by child play level and symbolic play with play that was lower than, equal to, or higher than their children's preceding play act within the nons^inbolic and symbolic play categories (see Appendix A). Specifically, for each maternal nonsymbolic play act that followed a child nonsymbolic play act, and for each maternal symbolic play act that followed a child symbolic play act, both maternal play and preceding child play were coded using the levels ofthe 24-level play scale. Mothers' play was then recoded as being lower than, equal to, or higher than the level of the preceding child play. (Interrater reliabilities, using the codings of the same five dyads as above, were again good to excellent: K = 1.00 for nonsymbolic levels and K = .63 for symbolic levels.) For example, if a child stirred with a toy spoon in a cup and the mother stirred with another spoon in another cup, she was matching the child's overall level of symbolic play as well as the more specific symbolic act of self-directed single act pretense. On the other hand, if a child stirred with a toy spoon in a cup and the mother suggested that the child "feed the dolly," the mother was matching the child's overall level of symbolic play, but vvas prompting the child to a higher level within symbolic play by suggesting that the child include an inanimate other in a sequence of two different pretense schemes. The frequencies of each of these three categories of response (i.e., lower than, equal to, or higher than the preceding child play level), within nonsymbohc and symbolic play separately, were summed and used in subsequent analyses. Within-subjects repeated-measures ANOVAs were used to identify differences in the frequencies of lower, equal, or higher maternal nonsymbolic and symbolic play behaviors separately. For both maternal nonsymbolic and symbolic play, there were significant main effects, F(2, 98) = 3.61, p < .05, and F(2, 98) = 34.50, p < .001, respectively. Mothers were more likely to suggest nonsymbolic or symbolic play at levels equal to or higher than the level of their children's preceding nonsymbolic or symbolic play, rather than lower than the preceding level of child play, ts(49) = 2.44 and 2.25, ps < .05, and ts(49) = 6.95 and 8.97, ps < .001, respectively. There were no significant differences in the rates at which mothers suggested nonsymbolic or symbolic play at the same level as their children's preceding nonsymbolic or symbolic play or at a higher level than the preceding child play level, ts{4Q) < 1.

Relations between Maternal Knowledge about Play and Maternal Play Maternal play summary measure.—To examine relations between maternal knowl-

Damast, Tamis-LeMonda, and Bornstein 1761 edge of play and maternal play, a siagle measure of maternal play was created. The goal was to create a measure of play to index mothers' attempts to "scaffold" their children's play (i.e., attempts to help tlieir children reach their potential level of performance). For each dyad, the mean of the transitional probabilities of seven play sequences was calculated; these sequences are represented in Appendix B.* Sequences were selected to represent instances in which mothers responded with play at levels that were higher than the level of the preceding child activity.

Thus, higher values on this measure indicate a greater tendency of mothers to engage in more advanced levels of play relative to their children's own play. The theoretical basis of this measure was Kuhn's (1972) finding that children are motivated to perform at advanced stages (in Piagetian tasks) when they witnessed behaviors performed at stages higher than Ilieir own stage, As a group, mothers offered 45% (SD = 7%) of their play responses at levels higher than the preceding child play level. Accuracy of maternal knowledge of play progressions.—Because the task of ranking 24 different child play acts might be difficult for mothers, the first set of analyses investigated how accurate mothers, as a group, were in their knowledge of early play development (see also Tamis-LeMonda et al., 1994).

Correlation analyses revealed strong agreement between both ithe mean and modal maternal rankings ofthe play acts and the hypothesized play scale, rs = .88 for both analyses. Further analyses explored the accuracy of mothers' knowledge ofthe transitions in play overviewed above. Specifically, the percentage of mothers ranking the more difficult play act as higher than the less difficult act (e.g., the percentage of mothers ranking other-directed pretense higher than self-directed pretense) was compared to chance using z scores. These analyses again revealed that mothers are accurate in their knowledge of play development.

Mothers ranked exploratory play as easier ilian nonsymbolic play, and nonsymbolic play as easier th^n symbolic play. Moreover, within symbolic play, mothers ranked pretending toward self as easier than pretending toward Other, single acts of pretense as easier than sequenced acts of pretense, literal pretense as easier than substitutive pretense, and agentive pretense as easier than vicarious pretense. (All p values for z scores ranged from .05 to .001.) A measure of the overall accuracy of each mother's rankings was generated by correlating her ranking of the 24 play acts with the hypothesized play scale.

As a group, individual mothers' rankings of these acts correlated highly with the empirical scale, mean r = ,69, SD = .16. There was, however, substantial individual variation in these correlations, with scores ranging from .09 to .91.

Correlation between maternal knowledge about play and. maternal play summary measure.— To examine the relation between maternal knowledge of play and observed maternal play, mothers' accuracy in ranking play was correlated with the maternal play summary measure. Mothers whose rankings of play corresponded more closely with the hypothesized scale responded to their children's play with play that was higher in level than the preceding child play level, n41) = .33, p < .05. In addition, although four of the seven sequences included in this score involved mothers' suggesting symbolic play to their children, maternal knowledge of play development was unrelated to mothers' overall frequency of suggesting symbolic play, r(41) = .10, N.S.

Thus, maternal knowledge about play is related to the specific coordination of the levels of mothers' and children's play, rather than mothers' overall level of play. Discussion The present study investigated the level and contingency of maternal play on children's play, as well as the possibility that the accuracy of mothers' rankings of the difficulty of child play acts accounts, in part, for the content of mothers' play. Results indicated that mothers are sensitive to the level of their children's play, adjusting the level of their own play to their children's play in both a macroanalytic manner (i.e., considering base rate frequencies and unconditional probabilities) and a microanalytic manner (i.e., considering episode-by-episode seTransitional probabilities were used, rather than frequencies or unconditional probabilities, because they control for tlie base rate of the child act.

This was considered necessary because certain levels of toddler play force mothers' prompts to he higher than child play. For example, when children are off-+ask, any maternal prompt is necessarily higher than children's play.

1762 Ghild Development quences and transitional prohabilities). In addition, mothers who are more knowledgeable about play development tend to suggest play to their children at a more sophisticated level than their children's ongoing play. evaluating the generalizability of these findings, it may be important to consider charact:eristics of the sample particular to this investiga^tion. Specifically, the mothers who participated in this study were somewhat older, more educated, and of a higher socioeconomic background. Maternal knowledge of and sensitivity to play may differ in younger mothers, less educated mothers, arid mothers from other socioeconomic or cultural backgrounds.

From a macroanalytie perspective, mothers are sensitive to the level of sophistication of their ehildren's play acflvities, and they adjust the frequency and the level of their play responses based on the level of their children's play. Across the play session as a whole^ motliers suggest play to their children most frequently at the overall level of their children's play; both toddlers and motliers engage in more symbolic play than noasj'mbolic play. In addition, mothers offer significantly more play resporises when their children are engaged in less sophisticated activities (i.e., when off-task or engaged in px|pibration).

In contrast, when their children are engaged in aiore sophisticated activities (i.e., in norisyriibolic or symbolic play), mothers offer fewer play suggestions. These findings concur with other evidence of parental sensitivity to developmental level and parental support of autonomy in ehildren. As described by Macceby (1984), parents generally appear to be sensitiye to the developmental abilities of their ciiiidren, adjusting their own actions, over time, to accommodiafe their children's emerging a(bij:it;ies. Maccoby suggested that paretafaJ nijenitoring of ehildren's nidmentby-moment; behaviors is firequent during in-^ fancy and tfjdidlerhodd/ Specific exi3«nE>les of parents' ad|iistiHg their behavior across time are (Siyident: in a variety of parentirigd0m:ains (Bornstein.

Tal, et al., 1992; lEeckhausen, 1987; O'Cdnneti & Brethertbii, }Mk Pawjnt Moss GoBselin:; & St;-ta«.rtent: 1993; logofi; Ellis, & Gardner, i§M; Tamis-LeiMonda & Bornstein, 199J). For instance, mothers tend to show decreases iin particular interactions and increases in others as their children grow dlder^attd imore co!rapeteirt(e.f., Belsky et al.. I980;'fieirnstein & Taniis-LeMonda, 199b; Rogoff, Malkin, & Gilbride, 1984). Data from the present study advance our understanding ofthis dynam^ic by demonstrating that mothers also adjust the frequency of their suggestions on an episode-by-episode basis at any one age.

That is, they provide more play suggestions when their children are engaged in "less cornpetent" (i.e., offtask and simple exploratory) behaviors, and they provide fewer play suggestions when their children are engaged in "more competent" (i.e., nonsymbolic and symbolic play) behaviors.

From a microanalytic perspective, mothers appear to adjust the level of their play contingent on their children's play, thereby functioning withiri their children's "?:One of proximal deyelopment" (ZPD; Rogoff & Wertsch, 1984; Vygotsky, 1978). When children are engaged in less sophisticated activities, mothers are likely to respond with play at one level higher than their children's level. Mothers attempt to focus their children's attention to the toys \¥hen their children are oJEf-task, and (though not significantly above chance levels) to encourage their children to engage in nonsymbolie play when they are involved in simple objed manipulation.

Thus, at these times mothtirs appear to use their play to "channel" their children's behavior toward focus on toys and more sophisticated levels ofjalay (Hodapp, Goldfield, & Boyatzis, 1^84; TroutiTian, Hazen, & Cook, 1992). When children are engaged in more sophisticated play, mothers are more likely to match their oVvn play to the level of their children's play, or to engage in higher levels of play within the broader categories of nonsymbolic and sjTuboIic play. This strategj^^ enables mothers to elaborate on their children's behaviors at the same level.

Decreases in the likelihood of certain maternal play behaviors in response to certain toddler behaviors also support the notion that mothers generally function within their children's "zone of proximal development " Decreases in the likelihood of maternal exploiatory play when preceded by child nonsvmbolie and child symbolic play, and decreases in the likelihood of maternal nonsymbolic play when preceded by child symbolic play, indicate that mothers tend wot to respoiid to their children's play with play that is lower in level (i.e., below their children's ZPD). The same pattem holds true when ea;a.minin.g trends within nonsymbolic and within symbolic play; mothers tend to make suggestions that are equal or higher in level, rtot lower in level, than their chil-

Damast, Tamis-LeMonda, and Bornstein 1763 dren's play. A decrease in the likelihood of maternal exploratory play when preceded bychild exploration suggests that motlbers tend not to orient their children to a toy when their children are already examining it, or shift their children's focus from one toy to another. In addition, although mothers engaged in more symbolic play than nonsymbolic play across the play session, they did not tend to suggest symbolic play in response to their children's nonsymbolic play or off-task behaviors. Overall, these results might suggest that mothers' play behaviors with their children serve to scaHbld their children's play on an episode-by-episode basis and across the entire play session.

Furthermore, the data suggest that children's dyadic play behaviors guide their mothers' participation in play interactions; mothers appear to use their children's play cues (e.g., object focus, actions) as a framework for their own play behaviors with their children. Beyond the empirical contribution, the present investigation expands the extant play literature methodologically. The use of sequential analyses allowed for a more detailed examination of an important aspect of sensitive maternal interactive behavior— contingency. It is evident that motliers' sensitivity to their children's developmental level is both global (i.e., aeross an entire play session) and specific (i.e., on an episode-byepisode basis).

It also became evident, through these analyses, that matches between the levels of children's and mothers' play observed in the literature (e.g., TamisLeMonda & Bornstein, 1991) are at least partially detennined by mothers' contingent, sensitive responding.

Analyses of mothers' knowledge of play revealed that mothers, as a group, are knowledgeable about development in eaily play. Nonetheless, interesting and in.Formative variation among mothers does exist. From a microanalytic perspective, mothers' knowledge ofthe progressive nature of play relates to episode-by-episode adjustments in their play with their children. Mothers who are more knpwledgeable about the relative difficult>' of various toddler play acts are more likely to respond to their children's play with play that is more sophisticated. The ef^ feet size of this correlation is modest and comparable to relations between parental knowledge and behavior in other domains reported in the literature (Miller, 1988).

On a macroanalytic level, no relation emerged between maternal knowledge about play and overall frequency of maternal symbolic play. Thus, mothers who are more knowledgeable about early play development respond sensitively on an episode-by-episode basis, rather than simply offering more symbolic play suggestions across the entire session, irrespective of tiieir children's current play level. These differences in sensitivity between macroanalytic and microanalytic analyses of knowledge and scaffolding behaviors reinforce the value of considering the sequential nature of interactions (see also Lewis & Lee-Painter, 1974; Tingley & Golden, 1992).

Research investigating parental cognitions has tended to explore relations between cognitions and developmental outcomes in children (Miller, 1988); these relations have frequently been examined with little regard to the parental behaviors that might mediate them, although the need for such data has been discussed (Hunt & Paraskevopoulos, 1980; Kindermann & Skinner, 1989). Furthermore, parental cognitions are ofiten investigated in relation to reports of parental behaviors (either self-reports or e.xperimenter-completed reports) rather than to direct observations of parental interactions (Sigel et al., 1992, Stevens, 1984).

Finally, when parental knowledge about development is related to parenting behavior, researchers have typically assessed (1) knowledge of general milestones and development (e.g., the KIDI, MacPhee, 1981; the KEID, Stevens, 1984) and/or (2) more general parenting stj'les £tnd practices (e.g., authoritative/authoritarian parenting; Kochanska, 1990). By relating parental cognitions in the domain of play to observed parental behaviors in the same domain, the present study takes a step toward elucidating speciRcity in the interplay betvveen maternal cognitions and actual mother-child interactions.

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