Playground Conflict

Playground Conflict

At some point last year my afternoons became over run with the task of breaking up playground fights. Fights and arguments arose between children that I knew had been friends at some point, possibly even that same morning, but were now spewing hate at each other. Somewhere along the line the diversities that made one a unique valuable part of the group became intolerable traits that landed them on the outside. The similarities that sprouted friendships were disregarded and the differences were emphasized leading to unacceptance. Playground conflict, “a perceived incompatibility of interests” (Schneider, 2012).

At the primary age children’s self-concepts are still developing and evolving. According to social identity theory an individual’s self-knowledge is made up of both personal identity and social identity (Schneider, 2012). Personal identity is an individual’s perception of their personal qualities and characteristics (Schneider, 2012). Social identity is an individual’s perception of which social groups they belong to or identify with (Schneider, 2012). These self-concepts had created multiple in-group/out-group biases and conflict.

In an attempt to reduce some of the conflicts, I with the help of other staff members, set up different stations and projects that focused on various strengths and similarities. The main goal of this attempt was for the children to notice less of the differences between each other and focus on and be reminded of the positive qualities and interests that they shared. There were a few bumps in the road but it was relatively successful overall. Unfortunately, the effects eventually wore off or new differences were emphasized.

This year I have plans of being proactive. I have implemented all kinds of kindness projects, activities and events. I am also planning comparable events multiple times a year in an attempt to highlight the likeness between them and reduce the negative views of their differences. Hopefully, I can apply some of newly acquired knowledge to creating a more successful intervention plan.



Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., Coutts, L.M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.



  1. I am assuming from your post that you are a teacher? As a fellow teacher, I applaud your attempts to challenge the playground dynamic by adding intentional learning opportunities for the children. It is a constant battle to encourage positive interactions and conversations between the children. It seems our world concentrates mainly on the negative and our children are not immune or blind to what is going on around them. I believe their time in school is imperative to foster healthy development and hopefully deviate from some of those negative and hostile aspects they come across in the real world. I am curious in what activities you and the other staff created for them and if the children were divided into groups and forced to work together, or were they given the opportunity to try different activities or refuse to participate.

  2. I thought your use of the contact hypothesis was a great way to reduce conflict among the kids. As they were “forced” to spend more time together and see how their differences could help make the activities more fun, their conflicts were resolved. I also think it’s great that you’re working to be more proactive this year to hopefully PREVENT conflicts before they occur. I think the idea behind all of applied sciences, and especially social psychology is to use the knowledge and research that we’ve compiled over the last several decades/centuries to improve our world and to prevent issues before they occur.

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