The Presence and Significance of Imaginative Play in the Lives of Mexican-American Adults
Perone, Anthony T.
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The Presence and Significance of Imaginative Play in the Lives of Mexican-American Adults Anthony T. Perone III, Ph.D. Department of Educational Psychology University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago, Illinois (2013) Dissertation Chairperson: Artin Göncü, Ph.D. This research was conducted to examine the expectation that imaginative play is a life-span, cultural activity. Challenging the dominant theories that claim that imaginative play is an activity primarily of early childhood and building upon others whose research on life-span imaginative play has been primarily with adults of European-American origin, a qualitative interview-based study with 16 (8 female) second-generation young adults of Mexican origin was conducted to determine if imaginative play has occurred throughout their lifespans, and if so, what themes, motivations, and developmental benefits have surfaced. Participants were first asked to define the words “play” and “imagination,” and then were asked whether or not imaginative play had occurred across their four developmental periods (i.e., early childhood, elementary school years, adolescence, and adulthood). Participants also shared the factors that have supported and prevented their imaginative play as well as instances of private imaginative play. Next, the relationships between cultural/community affiliation, ethnic identity, and gender and their imaginative play were explored. Finally, participants were asked about whether or not they benefitted from their engagement in imaginative play and about the presence and possibilities for imaginative play in formal learning environments. The results indicate that participants offered meanings of play and imagination that both align with current definitions of imaginative play existing in the literature and reveal their local meanings. Participants also reported spontaneous episodes and developmental benefits of imaginative play activity across their lifespans. Themes of cultural/community affiliation, ethnic identity, and gender and their presence in their imaginative play were offered to varying degrees. Developmental patterns with respect to the number of imaginative play episodes and their themes, structure, and motivations were also evidenced. Based on these findings, it is suggested that imaginative play emerges as a cultural, community-informed activity that occurs in all periods of development of these 16 adults and that it offers them developmental and educational benefits. The significance and limitations of the study as well as suggestions for future research are offered.