Children’s Risky Play from an Evolutionary Perspective: The Anti-Phobic Effects of Thrilling Experiences
This article takes an evolutionary perspective of children’s risky play, looking at evolutionary functions and the anti-phobic effects of risky play.
According to non-associative theory, infants develop fear of things (like heights and strangers) to protect them from situations they are not mature enough to naturally cope with. Risky play provides children with the experience of facing situations they were previously scared of, coupled with a thrilling positive emotion. As they learn to cope with these situations and gain a sense of mastery, their fear no longer holds power.
The authors conclude that risky play may have evolved as a natural phobia reducing developmental mechanism and that consequently, being hindered from taking part in age appropriate risky play may in fact increase the likelihood of mental health problems later in life.