Playground conflicts: Everyday opportunities for children to manage conflict

Beth Doll, Susan Churchill Sarver

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


School playgrounds provide everyday opportunities for children to learn about conflict and its resolution. A premise of this chapter is that many highly effective responses to children’s conflicts are those that enhance the physical setting of school playgrounds, refine the supervisory practices of adults on playgrounds and align playground practices with children’s emerging social interactions. In particular, this chapter draws upon four counterintuitive findings from developmental research describing children’s playground conflicts with their classmates. First, conflict and even aggression occur relatively infrequently in fewer than 2?% of playground interactions on playgrounds. Second, peer conflict is not opposite to peer friendships but appears within friendships. Third, adult observers have difficulty discriminating between actual conflict and the rough and tumble play of children on playgrounds. Fourth, playground conflict is not necessarily destructive. Thus, this chapter emphasizes practices that guide children through the resolution of conflict rather than practices that prevent conflict altogether.This developmental research can be translated into effective school playground practices with careful attention to (1) brief and technically sound assessment strategies that provide a comprehensive portrait of the existing playground experiences of children; (2) strategies to make sense of the assessment data given the experiences of adults and the perspective of children who populate the playground; (3) a conceptual framework for playground interventions that strengthen the peer experiences of children and promote competent conflict management skills; and (4) procedures that actively monitor changes that occur in response to the playground interventions. Optimally, this cycle of data-based problem-solving will foster effective school playgrounds upon which children will learn to respond adaptively to conflicts in ways that protect their friendships and enhance the social experiences of the entire peer group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationJustice, Conflict and Wellbeing
Subtitle of host publicationMultidisciplinary Perspectives
PublisherSpringer New York
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781493906239
ISBN (Print)9781493906222
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Data-based problem solving
  • Peer conflicts
  • Peer environment
  • Playground supervision
  • Playgrounds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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