Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Early Childhood Education

First Advisor

Olga Jarrett


The purpose of this study was to determine factors that affect pre-kindergarten children’s successful play behaviors. Using a multimethods research design, a series of separate studies were combined to determine the relationships among gender, social skills, sociometric status, and play behaviors. The study was conducted in two child development centers where children who have long been together at the center are joined by new children for their pre-kindergarten year. Each child participated in a sociometric analysis by choosing pictures of up to five classmates he/she most likes to play with and responded to interview questions on how children successfully join in play. Teachers assessed each child’s play behaviors using brief Likert Scale surveys. From the sociometric scores, the most chosen boys and girls and the least chosen boys and girls from each classroom were observed during outdoor play sessions while the researcher coded social and nonsocial play behaviors, play entry strategies, and gender and size of the group being entered. The following questions guided this basic research study: (1) What are the effects of gender and familiarity on children’s sociometric choices? (2) Do often-chosen and seldom-chosen children differ in play entry and play behaviors exhibited during outdoor play? (3) Is there a relationship between a child’s knowledge of play entry strategies, social status, and the child’s play behaviors? (4) Is there a relationship between a child’s sociometric score, observed social skills, and a teacher’s assessment of that child’s social skills? This study found the following: Children of both genders prefer same gender playmates. Gender was not a determinate of whether a child chose a student new to the center as a playmate. Seldom-chosen children make more polite requests to play than often-chosen children. Often-chosen children respond to more approaches and spend more time in social play than seldom-chosen children. Most children have knowledge of appropriate play entry strategies, but they do not always implement strategies they know are successful. Teachers know which children spend their time in social play but not which children are most chosen by classmates. Suggestions for teachers and centers and recommendations for future research are provided.