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Developmental Psychology: Role of peers and play in child development (The Psychology World Podcast)

Today’s episode is on developmental psychology and we draw on the knowledge from social psychology as we discuss the role of peers and play in psychological development.

Hi everyone, I hope that you had a great weekend.

In the introduction of this developmental psychology/ social psychology episode, I talk about the unfortunate COVID-19 situation and that if you use the coupon STAYSAFE at the checkout on then you can get 50% all of my ebooks.

Here are the show notes taken from my Developmental Psychology book:

Play and interaction with peers are undeniable for helping children develop, but how exactly does it help development?

Play develops as the child grows and gets older.

For example: at ages 1-2 years old the type of play is object manipulation when the child is only interested in the object itself as well as its properties. Like colours, shape and texture.

At ages 3-5 years old, the type of play changes to pretend play when the child uses objects

as symbols to act out a pretend social role. Like a family dinner. Enabling children to understand the meaning of objects.

At 6-7 years old, the type of play changes for the last time to become play with rules as the child doesn’t focus on the object nor the social role it could be used for, instead they focus on rules. This is because rules regulate the social world and complex sequences of social interactions, so they require complex cognitive structures that form at about this age.

Influence of peers and play on cognitive development:

Linking back to our cognitive development theories, Paiget believed that development in peer interaction is driven by the process of perspective talking, so being in a group of equal peers that find each other relatable would be helpful for development.

Damon and Killen (1982) supports this idea as they found that when children talk in groups this promotes moral reasoning more effectively than talking with adults.

Whereas, Vygotsky believed that cognitive development is driven by being around knowledgable others. This can be parents or peers.

Nedospavosa (1985) supports Vygotsky as they found that 5-7-year-old children overcome egocentrism easier when an adult is present, and they provide just enough help for the child to understand and complete the task. Supporting the idea of knowledge others is important for cognitive development.

The influence of peers and play on social development:

Interactions with peers and play in childhood create the vital foundation social skills so the child can develop and adjust to social situations in later life.

Hollos and Cowan (1973)

· Children from isolated farms and children from towns in Norway did a number of tasks to measure logical skills; like a conservation task with water; and social skills.

· To see social development in children from isolated farms as these children tend to have no same-aged peers on the farm.

· Results showed while there was no difference in the development of logical skills then there was a clear difference in the development of social skills from children from the isolated farms. Compared to children from the town.

· In conclusion, growing up in an isolated environment with no same age peers has a negative impact on the development of vital social skills.

Critical thinking:

A positive of this study is that it has high ecological validity as the experiment uses a natural, real-world setting. In turn, this increases the generalizability of the findings, so we apply the results of the experiment to different situations.

Whilst, the above is true, a negative of the study is that it only used one area and one culture. Therefore, we cannot say that this is part of a universal behavioural trend with supporting data as the study didn’t include other cultures or other geographical areas. As a result of this, it’s possible that this is a one-off occurrence or something unique to this area.


Play develops in the following stages:

· Object manipulation

· Pretend play

· Play with rules

Piaget believed that development is driven by perspective talking.

Vygotsky believed that development is driven by being around knowledgeable others.

Play and interacting with peers creates the foundations for social skills that are key in later life.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s episode and if you want to learn more about how social psychology influences developmental psychology then please check out Development Psychology for more information.

Also, please check out my store on and use the coupon STAYSAFE at the checkout to receive 50% off all my ebooks.

Have a great week everyone!

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