Expressivity in children's drawings of themselves for adult audiences with varied authority and familiarity

Esther Burkitt, Dawn Watling, Hannah Message

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This study investigated whether children’s expressive drawings of themselves vary as a function of audience authority and familiarity. One hundred and seventy-five children, 85 boys and 90 girls, aged between 8 years 1 months and 9 years 2 months (M= 8 years 5 months) were allocated into seven groups; a reference group (n=25) where no audience was specified, and six audience groups (n=25 per group) varying by audience type (policeman vs. teacher vs. man) and familiarity (familiar vs. unfamiliar). They drew baseline then happy and sad drawings of themselves, rated affect towards drawings type, and rated perceived audience authority. Audience familiarity and authority impacted expressive drawing strategy use and this varied by gender. There was higher overall expressive strategy use for happy drawings and for girls, and influences of affect type, familiarity and authority were found. The implications of children’s perceptions of audience type on their expressive drawings are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Early online date24 Jan 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jan 2019


  • expressivity
  • drawing
  • audience effects
  • authority
  • familiarity

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