Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Joseph C. LaVoie

Second Advisor

Cordelia Robinson

Third Advisor

Richard L. Wikoff


Fantasy play is a very general type of play and includes most types of pretending, whereas symbolic and dramatic play are specific types of pretending. There has been much controversy surrounding the age at which a child initially develops the ability to role-take, and the relationship between play and role-taking,. This study examined age and sex differences in eight categories of fantasy play— substitution, attribution of function, animation, insubstantial material, insubstantial situation, character attribution, dramatic, and other play. Relationships were also examined between play categories and egocentrism, role-taking, and verbal IQ. The subjects were 78 two- and six-year olds who were videotaped in free play for three 15-minute sessions, and then given Borke's (1971) role-taking task, Rubin and Maioni's (1975) egocentrism task, and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary test. The data analyses showed age differences in frequency and duration of play categories. All categories, except attribution of function and other play, increased until five years of age and then decreased. Attribution of function and other play decreased with age and then increased in six-year olds. The only sex differences found were in use versus nonuse of the categories. Positive relationships were found between material play categories (substitution, attribution of function, animation) and egocentrism, and between ideational play categories (insubstantial material and situation , character attribution, dramatic) and perspective role-taking. A negative relationship was found between role-taking and egocentrism. Few significant relationships were found between the play categories and verbal IQ. Fantasy play in two-year olds seems to be based on concreteobject types of play. As the child continues to experiment and learn about his/her environment, abstract play develops until the child can gradually role play. As the child becomes proficient in role-taking, the ability to role play also develops. Around six years of age, the child becomes interested in logical activities and fantasy play decreases. Further research is needed to determine if the play categories form a scale, and situational factors need to be examined to determine what influences the fantasy play of children.

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