HealthDay News — Children from schools with greater risk and challenge in the playground environment report being happier at school and playing with more children, according to a study published online April 24 in Pediatrics.
Victoria L. Farmer, PhD, from the University of Otago in New Zealand, and colleagues conducted a 2-year cluster-randomized controlled trial in which 8 control schools were asked to not change their play environment, while 8 intervention schools increased opportunities for risk and challenge (eg, rough-and-tumble play), reduced rules, and added loose parts (eg, tires). At baseline, 1 year, and 2 years, 840 children, 635 parents, and 90 teachers completed bullying questionnaires.
The researchers found that intervention children reported higher odds of being happy at school (at 2 years, odds ratio [OR], 1.64) and playing with more children (at 1 year, OR, 1.66) than control children. While intervention children reported they were pushed/shoved more (OR, 1.33), they were less likely to tell a teacher (OR, 0.69) at 2-year follow-up. There were no significant group differences in parents reporting whether children had “ever” been bullied at school (1 year, P =.23; 2 years, P =.07). Teachers at intervention schools noticed more bullying at 1 year (P =.009), but there was no corresponding increase in children reporting bullying to teachers (both time points, P ≥.26).
“Few negative outcomes were reported by children or parents, except for greater pushing/shoving in intervention schools. Whether this indicates increased resilience as indicated by lower reporting of bullying to teachers may be an unanticipated benefit,” wrote the authors.
Farmer VL, Williams SM, Mann JI, Schofield G, McPhee JC, Taylor RW. Change of school playground environment on bullying: a randomized controlled trail [published online April 24, 2017]. Pediatrics. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-3072