Impact Factor 2.323

The 1st most cited journal in Multidisciplinary Psychology

Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00232

Playful boys and girls in the classroom: Consequences and class clowns

  • 1Recreation, Sport & Tourism, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, United States

This longitudinal study identified degrees of playfulness in 278 kindergarten-aged children, and followed them through their next three school years to determine how playfulness was viewed by the children themselves, their classmates, and teachers. Perceptions of the social competence, disruptiveness, and labeling as the class clown, were assessed from all perspectives in each of first through third grades. Hierarchical linear modeling was conducted to account for the nesting of the data (children within classrooms within schools) and for the lack of independence between the measures. A central finding confirmed extant literature in that gender differences were dominant, with playful boys regarded as distinct from their less playful counterparts, while no such discrepancies appeared for girls. Playful boys were increasingly negatively regarded as rebellious and intrusive and were labeled as the “class clown” by their teachers. These findings were in direct contrast with children’s self-perceptions and those of their peers, who initially regarded more playful boys as appealing and engaging playmates. The data further revealed that the playful boys were stigmatized by their teachers, and this was communicated through verbal and nonverbal reprimands, and classmates assimilated this message and became increasingly denigrating of the playful quality in the boys. In stark contrast, girls’ playfulness levels were not a consideration in ratings by teachers or peers at any grade, nor did their classroom behaviors show significant variation. These negative perceptions were likely transferred by teachers to peers and to the children themselves, whereupon they changed their positive perceptions to be increasingly negative by third grade. The results contribute to the literature by demonstrating that playfulness in boys (but not girls) is often associated with the ‘class clown’ designation, and is viewed as an increasingly lethal characteristic in school classrooms, where compelling efforts are undertaken to discourage its expression and persistence.

Keywords: children’s playfulness, class clown, Disruptiveness, Classroom behavior, teacher-student relationship

Received: 19 Dec 2017; Accepted: 12 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

René T. Proyer, Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Germany

Reviewed by:

Ben Mardell, Harvard University, United States
Ciara Laverty, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom  

Copyright: © 2018 Barnett. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: PhD. Lynn A. Barnett, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Recreation, Sport & Tourism, 104 Huff Hall, 1206 S. Fourth Street, Champaign, 61820, Illinois, United States, lynnbm@illinois.edu