Child Psychiatry and Human Development

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 135–144 | Cite as

Childhood play as an analog to adult capacity to work

  • Nancy S. Cotton


This paper presents a theoretical model that proposes the continuity between childhood play and adult work. A developmental perspective is used to describe the complex transformations that take place turning an infant's behavior into adult work. Four childhood analogs to adult work are described. The thesis of the paper is that childhood play is the major arena in which these analogs develop. The arena of play can be characterized by four characteristics that facilitate the development of the analogs to adult work: (1) play provides the opportunity for children to learn, develop, and perfect new skills that buildcompetence; (2) play is the child's natural mode to master anxiety from overwhelming experiences of everyday life, which builds thecapacity to cope with the environment; (3) play helps build the ego's capacity to mediate between unconscious and conscious realities, which enhancesego strength; and (4) play repeats or confirms a gratifying experience that fuels a child'sinvestment in life.


Theoretical Model Social Psychology Everyday Life Natural Mode Developmental Perspective 
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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy S. Cotton
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryCambridge Hospital, Harvard Medical SchoolCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Director of Child Psychiatry Inpatient ServiceNew England Memorial HospitalStoneham

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