6-2 | Well Played


Well Played
The Origins and Future of Playfulness

Gwen Gordon


In this article, the author synthesizes research from several disciplines to shed light on play’s central role in healthy development. Gordon builds on research in attachment theory that correlates secure attachment in infancy with adult well-being to demonstrate how playfulness might be a lifelong outcome of secure attachment and a primary factor in well-being. She discusses infants enacting the two primary attachment behaviors, attachment and exploration, as protosocial and exploratory play, then shows how these form a foundation for lifelong play and development. She reviews several metaphors for world views that arise from different attachment styles and endure throughout life in ways she claims either enhance or inhibit playfulness. She explores the notion that adults can earn secure attachment through attuned play and restore what she sees as their innate playfulness and well-being. Key words: attachment theory; attuned play; broadening-and-building theory; exploratory play; happiness set point; internal working models (IWM); playfulness and well-being