Mildred Bernice Parten Newhall (1902 – May 26, 1970) was an American sociologist, a researcher at University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development.
She completed her doctoral dissertation in 1929. In it she developed the theory of six stages of child's play, which led to a series of influential publications.
Newhall was one of the first to conduct extensive studies on children for the case of play. She supervised children between two and five years old for intense one-minute periods. In these time frames, she could see the different children's behavior and documented them accordingly. She noted that most of the play is by themselves, in the first four stages. The latter two are more extensive sets of play, and occur in older age groups which involve more interaction between children.
She was married to Sidney Newhall, a researcher for Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York. Mildred Parten Newhall was a research associate in psychology at the University of Rochester and died in 1970.
- ^Parten, M. B. (1929). An Analysis of Social Participation, Leadership, and other Factors in Preschool Play Groups. OCLC 29143846.
- ^Parten, M. B. (1932). "Social Participation among Preschool Children". Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. 27 (3): 243–269. doi:10.1037/h0074524. ISSN 0096-851X.
- ^Parten, M. B. (1933). "Leadership among Preschool Children". Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. 27 (4): 430–440. doi:10.1037/h0073032.
- ^Parten, M. B. (1933). "Social Play among Preschool Children". Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. 28 (2): 136–147. doi:10.1037/h0073939.
- ^Parten, Mildred; Newhall, S. M. (1943). "Social Behavior of Preschool Children". In Barker, Roger G.; Kounin, Jacob S.; Wright, Herbert F. Child Behavior and Development: A Course of Representative Studies. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 509–525. OCLC 223918.
- ^Democrat and Chronicle. October 2, 1950 https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/136036302/.
- ^Bernard, Jessie (1970). "Mildred Parten Newhall 1902–1970". American Sociologist. 5 (4): 383. JSTOR 27701690.
Play is a serious business.
The pioneering developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky thought that, in the preschool years, play is the leading source of development.
Through play children learn and practice many basic social skills.
They develop a sense of self, learn to interact with other children, how to make friends, how to lie and how to role-play.
The classic study of how play develops in children was carried out by Mildred Parten in the late 1920s at the Institute of Child Development in Minnesota.
She closely observed children between the ages of 2 and 5 years and categorised the types of play.
Parten collected data by systematically sampling the children’s behaviour. She observed them for pre-arranged 1 minute periods which were varied systematically (Parten, 1933).
Types of play
The thing to notice is that the first four types of play don’t involve much interaction with others, while the last two do.
While children shift between the types of play, what Parten noticed was that as they grew up, children participated less in the first four types of play and more in the last two – those which involved greater interaction.
- Unoccupied play: the child is relatively stationary and appears to be performing random movements with no apparent purpose. A relatively infrequent style of play.
- Solitary play: the child is completely engrossed in playing and does not seem to notice other children. Most often seen in children between 2 and 3 years-old.
- Onlooker play: child takes an interest in other children’s play but does not join in. May ask questions or just talk to other children, but the main activity is simply to watch.
- Parallel play: the child mimics other children’s play but doesn’t actively engage with them. For example they may use the same toy.
- Associative play: now more interested in each other than the toys they are using. This is the first category that involves strong social interaction between the children while they play.
- Cooperative play: some organisation enters children’s play, for example the playing has some goal and children often adopt roles and act as a group.
Unlike Jean Piaget who saw types of play in primarily cognitive developmental terms, Parten emphasised the idea that learning to play is learning how to relate to others.
» This is part of a series on 10 crucial child psychology studies. Read more on the emergence of infant memory, self-concept, learning, attachment, social behaviour, theory of mind, object permanence, language and knowledge.
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Parten, M. (1933). Social play among preschool children. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 28, 136-147.