Age development and gender on childrens drawing complexity

2052 words (8 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 Psychology Reference this

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The act of drawing for children is more than just artistic expression. It can serve as a platform to them to explore their developing sensory awareness, to make sense of their world or as a medium to express their thoughts and feelings. Drawing, at the same time as being a form of expression, is also theorised as something that reveals the development that accompanies a the aging of the child. This concept states that the complexity, or the level of detail of children’s drawings, coincides with emotional and psychosocial development and also the development of perception and motor skills. As a result of this, children’s drawings are often used for different forms of cognitive, personality, and diagnostic assessment.

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When children are very young, the most that they can produce are basic scribbles and as they mature, these images take form and “children draw things as they are known rather than as they are actually perceived”(Cherney, Seiwert, Dickey, & Flichtbail, 2006). This process is actually understood as the “scribbling stage” and it appears at about eighteen months to two years of age (Hanline, Milton & Phelps, 2007). The initial phase of this is disordered scribbles. This is when repeated random connected marks are made.

The next phase is controlled scribbles, where connections are made between motions and marks and these are unconnected an in different directions. The third is named scribbles, where ideas of drawings are made and meaning is placed on drawings. (Hanline et al, 2007). Many researchers believe that scribble demonstrates the beginning of pattern awareness and hand-eye coordination. (Silk & Thomas, 1990; Lowenfeld & Brittain, 1987)

The next stage, the ‘pre-schematic’, typically occurs between four and seven years. This is when children begin to develop more recognisable images, in addition to what Hanline et al (2007) describe as “mock letters” as they try to understand written language. The ‘schematic’ stage follows this and usually occurs at ages seven to nine years. The drawings become more detailed, adding features such as fingers, and clothing (Silk & Thomas, 1990).

As is evident from this theory, it is generally assumed that that with the cognitive development of a child, there is an increase in drawing, however due to gender differences in fine motor skills that Halpern (2000) identified, females may be at an advantage if assumptions are made based on this area alone. For instance research has found that girls tended to include more body parts, in addition to unessential details such as clothing, jewellery, fingernails, hairstyles and more proportionate figures (Cherney et al, 2006; Pianta, Longmaid & Ferguson, 1999). This coincides with Cox and Ralph’s (1996) findings which identified that as children increased in age they tended to draw details in order to distinguish between different types of figures. Differences in free drawings may suggest that there are gender differences in the way children feel and perceive objects when they draw pictures (Cherney et al, 2006). However, Hanline et al. (2007) did not find a gender difference in drawing complexity, yet found factors such as length of time given to draw the picture as a predictor. In addition to this, much research has be undertaken based on the realism of the drawings, which is often identified through completeness of images, the details drawn by the girls could be misconstrued as advanced cognitive abilities. (Cherney et al., 2006) However, fine motor skills develop quickly when children reach between five and nine years old for both genders (Cherney et al., 2006; Pianta et al., 1999). Cherney et al. (2006) also found that these gender differences may have links to represent gender stereotypical features. This coincides with Holmes (1993) whose research suggest that children have an understanding of social norms, specifically those of distance of family members as opposed to friends.

Consequently, the aims of this study are twofold; to examine gender differences to ascertain if there is, in fact, differences, in regards to the complexity of drawings and to see if age has any influence in this area. As a result, two hypothesis were tested, specifically that as age increases, so does drawing complexity in children and that girls would have a higher level of drawing complexity than boys.

Method

Participants

This study consisted of 63 students from a local school and their non-school age siblings, who were asked to draw a picture of a person or of someone they knew. Parental permission was sought for each child. The final sample consisted of 28 females and 14 males. The mean age for the sample was 6.81 (SD = 2.31), with the mean age for boys was 6.72 (SD = 1.82) and for girls, 6.86 (SD = 2.55)

Materials

The participants were provided with paper and pencils and given up to an hour to complete a picture of a person or someone whom they knew. Of the 63 drawings obtained, 42 contained the image of a person, either by recognition or by asking the child. Due to this, only 42 images were used.

Procedure

Each of the 42 drawings was scored across the three complexity categories by an expert in drawing complexity. This scale was an adapted version of Dennis’s (1987) Five Drawing Task. These categories consisted of; facial features, body proportion and picture detail. Facial features was scored from 0 = “no features” to 4 = “facial features with an expression and/or finer detail”. Regarding the subcategory of body proportion, the range was; 0 = “missing features such as legs, feet and hands” to 4 “clear indication of body proportion and finer details present”. The third scale was 0 = “no individuals indicated” to 4 “clear detailed drawing”. The scores from the subcategories was then summed to give a total complexity score, which ranged between 0-12.

Results

To examine whether there was a correlation between age and drawing complexity, the sample was separated into 3 age groups; 1 – 3-5 years (M = 5.43, SD = 1.54); 2 = 6-8 years (M = 7.29, SD = 1.79) and 3 = 9+ years (M = 9.111, SD = 2.26). The results indicate a strong positive correlation between age and drawing complexity (.621). This is evident from the drawing themselves, with aspects such as names, facial features and backgrounds being added with older subjects. In addition to this, proportionate body parts and appropriate colours, such as differentiating between articles of clothing, skin and hair, was more prevalent in drawings undertaken by older children. To ascertain gender differences in drawing complexity, an unpaired t-test was used found that there was no significant correlation (.704). This is supported with by many of the drawings completed by boys having similar details, such as fingers, names and clothing, being included. Colour was also used across the genders, as was the inclusion of backgrounds such as trees, the sky and houses.

Discussion

The present study confirmed that there was a correlation between age progression and the complexity of children’s drawings. As the relation between age and drawing complexity is significant (.621) which supports our hypothesis that as age increases, so does drawing complexity. It also supports the findings of Cherney et al. (2006) which indicate a link between increased working memory capacity and independent memory recall, which both are affected by age. As was apparent from the drawings, as children get older, the more detail and colour was used. This coincided with the research of Cox and Ralph (1996) which identified that as children increased in age they tended to draw more details in their images. Cox and Ralph (1996) also identified that although all age-groups tended to adapt their images to fit the concept, such as arms in different position indicating movement was more prevalent with older children. This approach, reinforced the concept that a child’s drawing naturally changes according to age. In order to draw, the use of motor skills is essential. As well, children draw what they know about. As they develop cognitively, so does their drawing ability, which, in turn, will enhance their complexity. The understanding the development children’s cognition has implications in areas such as education, as “assessing a child’s drawings can provide a window into their representational world” (Cherney et al., 2006). The hypothesis that females would have a higher level of drawing complexity was not supported. This is also seen in the study undertaken by Cherney et al.,(2006) who found that there were no difference with the detail of the drawings. This could indicate that the influence of the earlier development of female fine motor skills may not be as greater an influence. This could be, in part, due to the individual differences in the development of fine motor skills, as they can often “confound both the drawing variables and outcomes of the personality assessments which they are believed to predict” (Cherney et al., 2006). It could also suggest, as Turgeon (2008) identified, that complexity, in this instance the use of colour, was seen in older children, rather than along gender lines, which suggests that social development has an influence in drawing complexity. Overall these results indicate that age is, in fact, more dominant an influence in the development of drawing complexity than gender. Further research is needed to ascertain if this is the case under different circumstances. Factors, such as the time limit, enable some of the younger children, or those not as skilled at drawing, to provide more detail in their images, as Hanline et al. (2007) also found. Another influence is the task of drawing a figure rather than free drawing, as , rather than use their imagination, may limit their detail, as they are trying to draw from their working memory. Further research into this may, as Cherney et al., (2006) state, “indicate that boys and girls have different feelings and ways of perceiving objects when they draw pictures”, which may suggest developmental differences. Also, as the images were not assessed on what can be seen as ‘gender specific’ details, such as clothing, jewellery and eyes. Studies have found that females tend to use these details more frequently than males (Cherney et al, 2006; Pianta et al., 1999), subsequently, if the images were assessed on these features, different gender based results may be found. However, we also cannot rely upon the drawings to give a clear understanding of a child’s development as a process that requires the use of fine motor and conceptual skills can ever be free of issues such as making assumptions based on the images alone. This can create the limitation of making judgments of based on our prior knowledge and experience. As Abercrombie and Tyson (1966) identify, it is necessary to have established criteria which specify a standard of comparison. If a child who always draws with limited detail, it could be perceived that child could not draw to a particular standard, rather than they have underdeveloped cognitive abilities, or are limited by their gender. Children draw what they perceive and comprehend. In other words, as perception functions, emotional states and motor skills interact, in addition to their social awareness, the images that children draw may be different.

The act of drawing for children is more than just artistic expression. It can serve as a platform to them to explore their developing sensory awareness, to make sense of their world or as a medium to express their thoughts and feelings. Drawing, at the same time as being a form of expression, is also theorised as something that reveals the development that accompanies a the aging of the child. This concept states that the complexity, or the level of detail of children’s drawings, coincides with emotional and psychosocial development and also the development of perception and motor skills. As a result of this, children’s drawings are often used for different forms of cognitive, personality, and diagnostic assessment.

When children are very young, the most that they can produce are basic scribbles and as they mature, these images take form and “children draw things as they are known rather than as they are actually perceived”(Cherney, Seiwert, Dickey, & Flichtbail, 2006). This process is actually understood as the “scribbling stage” and it appears at about eighteen months to two years of age (Hanline, Milton & Phelps, 2007). The initial phase of this is disordered scribbles. This is when repeated random connected marks are made.

The next phase is controlled scribbles, where connections are made between motions and marks and these are unconnected an in different directions. The third is named scribbles, where ideas of drawings are made and meaning is placed on drawings. (Hanline et al, 2007). Many researchers believe that scribble demonstrates the beginning of pattern awareness and hand-eye coordination. (Silk & Thomas, 1990; Lowenfeld & Brittain, 1987)

The next stage, the ‘pre-schematic’, typically occurs between four and seven years. This is when children begin to develop more recognisable images, in addition to what Hanline et al (2007) describe as “mock letters” as they try to understand written language. The ‘schematic’ stage follows this and usually occurs at ages seven to nine years. The drawings become more detailed, adding features such as fingers, and clothing (Silk & Thomas, 1990).

As is evident from this theory, it is generally assumed that that with the cognitive development of a child, there is an increase in drawing, however due to gender differences in fine motor skills that Halpern (2000) identified, females may be at an advantage if assumptions are made based on this area alone. For instance research has found that girls tended to include more body parts, in addition to unessential details such as clothing, jewellery, fingernails, hairstyles and more proportionate figures (Cherney et al, 2006; Pianta, Longmaid & Ferguson, 1999). This coincides with Cox and Ralph’s (1996) findings which identified that as children increased in age they tended to draw details in order to distinguish between different types of figures. Differences in free drawings may suggest that there are gender differences in the way children feel and perceive objects when they draw pictures (Cherney et al, 2006). However, Hanline et al. (2007) did not find a gender difference in drawing complexity, yet found factors such as length of time given to draw the picture as a predictor. In addition to this, much research has be undertaken based on the realism of the drawings, which is often identified through completeness of images, the details drawn by the girls could be misconstrued as advanced cognitive abilities. (Cherney et al., 2006) However, fine motor skills develop quickly when children reach between five and nine years old for both genders (Cherney et al., 2006; Pianta et al., 1999). Cherney et al. (2006) also found that these gender differences may have links to represent gender stereotypical features. This coincides with Holmes (1993) whose research suggest that children have an understanding of social norms, specifically those of distance of family members as opposed to friends.

Consequently, the aims of this study are twofold; to examine gender differences to ascertain if there is, in fact, differences, in regards to the complexity of drawings and to see if age has any influence in this area. As a result, two hypothesis were tested, specifically that as age increases, so does drawing complexity in children and that girls would have a higher level of drawing complexity than boys.

Method

Participants

This study consisted of 63 students from a local school and their non-school age siblings, who were asked to draw a picture of a person or of someone they knew. Parental permission was sought for each child. The final sample consisted of 28 females and 14 males. The mean age for the sample was 6.81 (SD = 2.31), with the mean age for boys was 6.72 (SD = 1.82) and for girls, 6.86 (SD = 2.55)

Materials

The participants were provided with paper and pencils and given up to an hour to complete a picture of a person or someone whom they knew. Of the 63 drawings obtained, 42 contained the image of a person, either by recognition or by asking the child. Due to this, only 42 images were used.

Procedure

Each of the 42 drawings was scored across the three complexity categories by an expert in drawing complexity. This scale was an adapted version of Dennis’s (1987) Five Drawing Task. These categories consisted of; facial features, body proportion and picture detail. Facial features was scored from 0 = “no features” to 4 = “facial features with an expression and/or finer detail”. Regarding the subcategory of body proportion, the range was; 0 = “missing features such as legs, feet and hands” to 4 “clear indication of body proportion and finer details present”. The third scale was 0 = “no individuals indicated” to 4 “clear detailed drawing”. The scores from the subcategories was then summed to give a total complexity score, which ranged between 0-12.

Results

To examine whether there was a correlation between age and drawing complexity, the sample was separated into 3 age groups; 1 – 3-5 years (M = 5.43, SD = 1.54); 2 = 6-8 years (M = 7.29, SD = 1.79) and 3 = 9+ years (M = 9.111, SD = 2.26). The results indicate a strong positive correlation between age and drawing complexity (.621). This is evident from the drawing themselves, with aspects such as names, facial features and backgrounds being added with older subjects. In addition to this, proportionate body parts and appropriate colours, such as differentiating between articles of clothing, skin and hair, was more prevalent in drawings undertaken by older children. To ascertain gender differences in drawing complexity, an unpaired t-test was used found that there was no significant correlation (.704). This is supported with by many of the drawings completed by boys having similar details, such as fingers, names and clothing, being included. Colour was also used across the genders, as was the inclusion of backgrounds such as trees, the sky and houses.

Discussion

The present study confirmed that there was a correlation between age progression and the complexity of children’s drawings. As the relation between age and drawing complexity is significant (.621) which supports our hypothesis that as age increases, so does drawing complexity. It also supports the findings of Cherney et al. (2006) which indicate a link between increased working memory capacity and independent memory recall, which both are affected by age. As was apparent from the drawings, as children get older, the more detail and colour was used. This coincided with the research of Cox and Ralph (1996) which identified that as children increased in age they tended to draw more details in their images. Cox and Ralph (1996) also identified that although all age-groups tended to adapt their images to fit the concept, such as arms in different position indicating movement was more prevalent with older children. This approach, reinforced the concept that a child’s drawing naturally changes according to age. In order to draw, the use of motor skills is essential. As well, children draw what they know about. As they develop cognitively, so does their drawing ability, which, in turn, will enhance their complexity. The understanding the development children’s cognition has implications in areas such as education, as “assessing a child’s drawings can provide a window into their representational world” (Cherney et al., 2006). The hypothesis that females would have a higher level of drawing complexity was not supported. This is also seen in the study undertaken by Cherney et al.,(2006) who found that there were no difference with the detail of the drawings. This could indicate that the influence of the earlier development of female fine motor skills may not be as greater an influence. This could be, in part, due to the individual differences in the development of fine motor skills, as they can often “confound both the drawing variables and outcomes of the personality assessments which they are believed to predict” (Cherney et al., 2006). It could also suggest, as Turgeon (2008) identified, that complexity, in this instance the use of colour, was seen in older children, rather than along gender lines, which suggests that social development has an influence in drawing complexity. Overall these results indicate that age is, in fact, more dominant an influence in the development of drawing complexity than gender. Further research is needed to ascertain if this is the case under different circumstances. Factors, such as the time limit, enable some of the younger children, or those not as skilled at drawing, to provide more detail in their images, as Hanline et al. (2007) also found. Another influence is the task of drawing a figure rather than free drawing, as , rather than use their imagination, may limit their detail, as they are trying to draw from their working memory. Further research into this may, as Cherney et al., (2006) state, “indicate that boys and girls have different feelings and ways of perceiving objects when they draw pictures”, which may suggest developmental differences. Also, as the images were not assessed on what can be seen as ‘gender specific’ details, such as clothing, jewellery and eyes. Studies have found that females tend to use these details more frequently than males (Cherney et al, 2006; Pianta et al., 1999), subsequently, if the images were assessed on these features, different gender based results may be found. However, we also cannot rely upon the drawings to give a clear understanding of a child’s development as a process that requires the use of fine motor and conceptual skills can ever be free of issues such as making assumptions based on the images alone. This can create the limitation of making judgments of based on our prior knowledge and experience. As Abercrombie and Tyson (1966) identify, it is necessary to have established criteria which specify a standard of comparison. If a child who always draws with limited detail, it could be perceived that child could not draw to a particular standard, rather than they have underdeveloped cognitive abilities, or are limited by their gender. Children draw what they perceive and comprehend. In other words, as perception functions, emotional states and motor skills interact, in addition to their social awareness, the images that children draw may be different.

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