Play behaviors and social skills among maltreated foster children

Carmen Y Veloz, Fordham University


The aim of this study was to examine the impact of child maltreatment on social competence and social/cognitive aspects of play. The social skills and free play behaviors of 44, 5–12 year-old maltreated and nonmaltreated children were compared. Twenty-four children placed in foster care for reasons of physical abuse/neglect and 20 demographically similar biological children of licensed foster parents participated in this research. Children's play sessions were videotaped in a New York City foster care agency's mental health clinic and analyzed along social and cognitive dimensions. Foster/biological mothers rated children's social skills functioning. Maltreated children were found to have significantly poorer skills in initiating interactions with peers, responsibility, maintaining self-control, internalizing behaviors and hyperactivity. Significant differences were found between groups with regard to some solitary and parallel play. No significant differences were found between maltreated children and nonmaltreated children for group play behaviors. Maltreated children presented with less mature play than nonmaltreated comparisons, but did not differ with regard to immature play. Small positive correlations were found between solitary play and self-control, and group play and assertion. Group play behaviors had a small negative correlation with problem behaviors. Correlations of moderate strength were found between length of foster care placement and overall social competence. Specific social skills of cooperation, assertion and responsibility were also positively correlated with length of foster care placement. The findings suggest that the experience of maltreatment has some negative consequences on children's social, emotional and cognitive development into middle childhood.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Developmental psychology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Veloz, Carmen Y, "Play behaviors and social skills among maltreated foster children" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3169398.