Exploring Early Bullying: Play and Aggression in a Preschool Classroom

Megan Wright (2010)

In this dissertation I discuss research conducted to gain additional understanding into the relationship between play behaviors and aggression behaviors of preschool-aged children. Specifically, I researched the following question: Do children who behave aggressively and/or bully peers engage in different types of play than children who do not? I acquired information on these behaviors through coding both play and aggression as observed in two preschool classrooms in a university-affiliated early childhood education center. I collected data through twice-weekly hour-long observations over a two-month period resulting in approximately 16 observation sessions. After collecting data on aggression and play behaviors, I examined the relationships between different categories of play (i.e., nonplay, exploratory, functional, constructive, and imaginative play), physical and relational aggression, and bullying behaviors. This study resulted in a small effect size that indicated most children who played in constructive and/or imaginative manners were less likely to engage in aggressive behavior.