Children's drawings of significant figures for a peer or an adult audience

Esther Burkitt, Dawn Watling, Lucy Murray

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The present study assessed if children would present different information in their drawings of emotion eliciting stimuli when they believed that an adult or a child audience would view their drawings. Seventy-five 6-year-olds (44 boys and 31 girls) were allocated to three groups: the reference group, the child audience group and the adult audience group. All children completed a drawing session where they first drew a neutral uncharacterised figure, followed by drawings of a sad and a happy figure in counterbalanced order. Findings demonstrated that children did consider who would be viewing their drawings when communicating emotional affect and included different features within their drawings. In particular, almost all happy drawings included a smile, but only those drawings where an audience was specified included a wave, and only the adult drawings included flower giving. Within the sad drawings tears and frowns were drawn regardless of audience type, while stomping was more likely to be portrayed in drawings with a child audience and thumbs down were more likely to be portrayed in drawings with adult audiences. The findings are discussed in terms of the need to further examine communicative aspects of children’s drawings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-473
Number of pages8
JournalInfant and Child Development
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • drawing
  • audience
  • emotion
  • interpretation

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