Structured versus unstructured physical activity play: Effects on preschool behavior problems

Paula Maria Calabrese, Fordham University


The relationship between structure and physical activity on disruptive behavior problems was investigated among 65 preschool children with and without behavioral difficulties. A comparison of the amount of structure imposed on children's physical activity was conducted with reference to the incidence of classroom behavior problems observed following each type of activity (structured and unstructured). General disruptive behavior and inappropriate verbal responding occurred with significantly greater frequency after the unstructured activity and lesser frequency after the structured activity. No differences were found between the structured and unstructured activity for aggressive behavior in the classroom. In addition, it was found that children with behavioral problems displayed significantly more general disruptive behavior and negative verbal responses than children without behavioral difficulties after the unstructured activity only, with no differences between the groups following the structured activity. Again, no differences were found between children with and without behavior problems with respect to the frequency of aggressive behavior. The results are discussed in terms of the debate over the effects of physical activity play on subsequent behavior. Also discussed are the implications for the development of a treatment option for preschoolers with behavior problems, as well as the ways in which clinicians, educators, and parents can best incorporate physical activity in the child's day to prevent disruptive classroom behavior.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Preschool education|Behaviorial sciences

Recommended Citation

Calabrese, Paula Maria, "Structured versus unstructured physical activity play: Effects on preschool behavior problems" (2001). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3017542.