Effects of early childhood teacher delivered play therapy intervention on the social skills of young children: a pilot study
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Health Sciences
The growing number of young children exhibiting conduct problems is a cause of serious concern for many early childhood teachers. Past research has shown that child centred play therapy (CCPT) may be effective for addressing conduct problems. However, little research has been carried out to study the impact of CCPT on children exhibiting these problems, through training early childhood teachers in using CCPT strategies. Therefore, the goal of this pilot study was to explore whether young children who have persistent conduct problems in early childhood settings in New Zealand would show improved behaviour following their early childhood teachers learning some play-therapy strategies. It also aimed to gather information from teachers about the suitability of play therapy strategies within the context of the New Zealand early childhood system. Two early childhood teachers and two children, aged 4 years participated in the study. Following the teachers’ training, a decrease in problem behaviour and a notable increase in positive play behaviour were observed for the two child-participants. These positive changes corresponded with the improved Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) (Goodman, 1997) scores as measured by the teachers. The Total Difficulties scores gained for both children were in the clinical range at the beginning of the study and had improved to the normal range at the followup. The results also showed that the teachers appeared to have benefited from the training and were very satisfied with the intervention outcomes. They found the training acceptable and intended to continue using play therapy strategies in their centre. The findings of the current study extend previous research by demonstrating the teachers’ ability to deliver CCPT strategies. Some limitations of the current study included the limited number of observations during baseline, utilising teachers involved in the CCPT training as the source of data on children, and the absence of the parent report measures. The study findings have some important implications for early childhood centres and for further research.