Factors associated with symbolic play development in preschoolers with hearing impairments and language processing delays

Jennifer A Maltz, Pace University


A child's ability to play is dependent on various factors, both internal and environmental. This study examines the relationships between symbolic play development in children, language development in children, parental role behaviors and parenting stress. This project is specifically concerned with the development of play in relation to these other factors in a population of hearing impaired and language processing delayed preschoolers. Due to the fact that both language and symbolic play are at least partially dependent on the cognitive capacity for representation, it is hypothesized that when language skills are held constant hearing impaired children will demonstrate higher level symbolic play skills than will language delayed children. Furthermore, it is hypothesized that parenting roles involving the bonding with, and sensitivity toward, children will relate positively with symbolic play development in children; and that parenting stress levels will relate negatively with such development. Twelve hearing impaired and thirteen language delayed children participated in this study. Parents filled out demographic sheets, the Parenting Behaviors Questionnaire and the Parenting Stress Index (Short Form). The Test of Pretend Play and the Preschool Language Scale (3rd ed.) were administered to the children. Between-group differences were analyzed using independent t-tests; analyses of covariance were used to partial out the factors of both age and language; and Pearson product moment correlations were used to analyze the relationships between the various measures. Major findings included between group differences on the language measure, but not on the measure of symbolic play; this was true even when language and age were partialed out. However, it was noted that as symbolic tasks became more complex, language became a more critical related element. Additionally, while parenting behaviors did not correlate with symbolic play development in this population, parenting stress related to some, but not all, areas of play skill development. It was concluded that the two diagnostic groups may have had more in common than originally thought, perhaps as a function of the delay in diagnosis and amplification of the hearing impaired group (thereby decreasing the chance for stimulation of the representational areas of the brain through language), or perhaps as a result of the school setting, which offers similar modes of instruction and remediation to all students, as well as support and resources to all parents. Additionally, the potential effects of the various parenting factors on play skill development, in view of an evolving understanding of parental characteristics (such as the effects of parental coping skills rather than the direct experience of parenting stress), are discussed.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Maltz, Jennifer A, "Factors associated with symbolic play development in preschoolers with hearing impairments and language processing delays" (2003). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3114304.



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