Absence Of Play

.. Lack of natural, spontaneous, free-spirited play during childhood seemed to be a common thread in the histories of "horribly violent mass murderers, really off-the-wall felony drunk drivers," and others "on the fringes."

Studies by Dr. Stuart Brown of the National Institute of Play found that "healthy, varied play in childhood is absolutely necessary "for the development of empathy, social altruism and … a repertoire of social behaviors enabling the player to handle stress."
Play fosters curiosity and is a major catalyst to learning.


What all of these studies repeatedly revealed and what struck..separate research teams as unexpected, was that normal play behavior was virtually absent throughout the lives of highly violent, anti-social men regardless of demography.

Although physical abuse and social (largely paternal) deprivations were significant in predicting chronic risks for violence in the homicide studies, in both the drunken antisocial drivers and the murderers absent or clearly abnormal play was in league with later social and personal tragedy.
These were not the findings in the comparison groups. Though they reported many stressful life experiences, their capacities to engage a repertoire of coping capacities appeared related to the richness and variety of play experiences, particularly those early in life."

In animals, affiliative play appears to be kindled by the release of certain hormones and neurotransmitters, but it requires the experience of play to make “belonging” occur. This area of investigation may well have implications for violence prevention an other aspects of social well-being. For more see: Play and Belonging

  • Photo: Children at play in Kindergarten Trunkelsberg (Germany) where my daughter attended.
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