Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Characterizing caregiver input to children with diverse developmental outcomes during pretend play

Altman, Kathryn Beth (2023) Characterizing caregiver input to children with diverse developmental outcomes during pretend play. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Download (1MB) | Preview


In neurotypical development, infants begin engaging in pretend play at 18 months old. Toddlers with developmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and language delays (LD), may not meet neurotypical play development benchmarks. Little research has examined the relationship between pretend play and caregiver input in toddlers with ASD and LD.
This study addressed two questions: 1) does the type of play caregivers encourage vary depending on their child’s age and developmental status?; and 2) How often is caregiver input prompted by the child’s behavior?
Participants included toddlers with an autistic older sibling, at elevated likelihood (EL) for ASD and LD. EL participants were classified as: EL-ASD, EL-LD, or EL-no diagnosis (ND). A comparison group consisted of children at typical likelihood for (TL) ASD. Caregiver-child dyads were videotaped playing together at 18- and 36-months-old. Caregivers’ utterances were classified into categories denoting the various types of pretend play, if any, each utterance encouraged. Pretend-play-related utterances were categorized as prompted (if the child was actively playing with the specific toy or engaging in the specific play) or unprompted by the child, before the caregiver spoke.
A higher proportion of utterances were pretend-play-related at 36-months (46%) than at 18-months (40%, p=0.030). The proportion of complex pretend play encouraged increased significantly over time, while the proportion of simple pretend play encouraged decreased. A higher proportion of pretend-play-related utterances were prompted by the child’s play at 36-months (60%) than at 18-months (37%, p<0.050). At 36-months, caregivers of EL-ASD children used fewer prompted utterances than caregivers of TL children (p=0.020). These analyses suggest that caregivers encourage more pretend and complex play over time, and that play becomes increasingly child-driven as children age. Additionally, this suggests that caregivers of autistic children encourage play that is less contingent on the child’s actions. This study helps us better understand the bidirectional influences between caregivers and children, and demonstrates that caregivers are highly attuned to their children during play in order to provide a salient, challenging environment in which their children can thrive and develop through play.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Altman, Kathryn Bethkba15@pitt.edukba15
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorIverson, Jana
Committee MemberGanger,
Committee MemberVanwoerden,
Committee MemberTamis-LeMonda,
Date: 24 April 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 11 April 2023
Approval Date: 24 April 2023
Submission Date: 18 April 2023
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 58
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Developmental Disorders, Play, Pretend Play, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Language Delays, Child Caregiver Interactions
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2023 17:30
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2023 17:30


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item