A Study of Play Across the Lifespan

  • Author / Creator
    Cosco, Sarah L
  • I explored how play and playfulness changed across the lifespans of an international sample of adults aged 18 to 70. My research study was informed by phenomenological methodology and used interviews as a means of data collection. Participants were recruited from a number of platforms, including a university graduate faculty, a play-based listserv, a play conference, and an international discussion forum. Eighteen participants were recruited from Canada, the United States, Germany, and Argentina. Semi-structured interviews were held in person, over Skype, or were written and emailed to me. Data was concurrently collected and analyzed thematically. The main themes yielded were, ‘play as exploration’, ‘wellbeing’, ‘play as serious’, ‘it is not what you do, it is how you do it’, and ‘stigma’. In general, play behaviours refined as participants aged, and followed a pattern of beginning as predominantly physical play, focusing more on social play during adolescence, and then further honing into social and emotional play during adulthood. Adults recollected more instances of playfulness as they aged rather than play. Play was shown to promote and facilitate wellness holistically across the lifespan. This research contributes to the foundation of play research by examining the transitions of child to adolescence, and adolescence to adulthood, as opposed to maintaining age-group silos. While the research question is unusually large for a thesis, it provides the seeds of hypotheses for future studies on play. Results from the data were mapped on to the Wheel of Wellness to show how play influences holistic wellbeing.

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  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
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    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.