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Phillips, R.H. (1960). The Nature and Function of Children's Formal Games. Psychoanal Q., 29:200-207.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29:200-207

The Nature and Function of Children's Formal Games

Richard H. Phillips, M.D.


Children of similar ages share problems in regard to the anxiety associated with the inability to master specific situations. In an attempt to solve these problems, they collaborate in playing specific games which in a symbolic way master anxiety, at the same time keeping it out of awareness. Adults as well as children unconsciously perceive the symbolic nature of 'the game'. Whether the game is considered appropriate or not depends upon whether it is felt to be proper for the child's age, or whether it is a game that should have been mastered earlier. This theoretical frame of reference may be useful in throwing light upon the meaning of other comparable standard games as well as upon certain types of spontaneous individual play.

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