British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 17 Issue 3 (September 1999), Pages 319-481

The pretend and social role play of children exposed to early severe deprivation (pages 319-332)

The present study investigates whether early physical and psychological deprivation has long‐term negative effects on children's pretend play at 4 years of age. A total of 104 Romanian children from institutions adopted into UK families before the age of 2 years, one group adopted between 0 to 6 months and a second group adopted between 6 and 24 months, were compared with 50 within‐country adoptees who were all placed between 0 to 6 months. Children were assessed in a 10‐minute semistructured play session. Analysis for group differences between UK adoptees and the two Romanian adoptee groups indicated a general tendency for the UK adoptees to engage in higher frequencies of pretend play, role play and referencing others’ mental states than Romanian adoptees: they were also more positively engaged with the examiner than were the Romanian adoptees. The group differences remained significant after controlling for general cognitive and verbal ability. The results are discussed in terms of the possible impact of early social and psychological deprivation on social development as reflected in play.

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