2-3 | The Role of Play in Human Development

New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. References, illustrations. ix, 278 pp. $49.95 cloth. ISBN: 9780195367324
Doris Bergen

In his introduction, Anthony D. Pelligrini explains his purpose is to write “an academic book” (p. 3), and that his perspective is influenced by his own scholarly experiences and research interests. These, he states, have been guided by an orientation informed by evolutionary theory related to the role of play, by the extensive body of research on animal play, and by his own research. He suggests that much of the play research focused on the play of human children and on the role of play in educational practices has not been especially fruitful. He says that the research, in fact, may have used questionable research criteria and may have made unwarranted assumptions. Thus, his perspective is one that attempts to bring the extensive information about the evolutionary context of both nonhuman and human play together with the more standard theoretical approaches used in early-childhood research on play. He hopes this different perspective will have positive consequences on both child-development research and educational policy decisions. While this is an ambitious goal, readers may find that both the density of his writing and his segues into a number of more esoteric research areas within certain chapters together make it difficult to gain the integrated perspective Pelligrini seeks.