Children’s Play as a Context for Managing Physiological Arousal and Learning Emotion Regulation

Peter LaFreniere

Abstract


In this paper I examine children’s play as a context for managing physiological arousal and learning to regulate strong emotions. I define emotion regulation as the process by which children monitor and control their emotional states and their expression to adapt to different social situations or demands. Age trends and gender differences in emotion regulation problems and competencies are described. I then review the development of play, deprivation studies, and the biological functions of different forms of play in primates before discussing children’s play. Vigorous social play benefits children by promoting the development of communication, perspective-taking and emotion regulation skills. For boys especially, rough-and-tumble play in early childhood provides a scaffold for learning emotion regulation skills related to managing anger and aggression.

Keywords


play; emotion regulation; social competence; peer relations

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