This study examined the relationship between children’s drawing abilities, development and age. 63 young children were approached to draw a picture at a local school; the final sample consisted of 28 females and 14 males. Mean age for the sample was 6.81. It has been assumed that as children get older their ability to draw develops however there are factors that can limit some children’s development. The hypothesises that there is a relationship between age and drawing complexity and also the difference between boys and girls in drawing complexity concluded that there is a difference with age and also gender.
Getting to know children’s cognitive development does have implications in many fields,
Especially in the area of education. While there are many possible approaches to the
study of cognitive development, the assessment of a child’s drawings can provide
information into their representational world. For example, the ability of children to show
spatial elements from their environment through an understanding of where an
object is located in comparison to others is an important aspect of child development
as well as an important aspect of geography, geometry, and graphic design (Cherney,I.D &
Seiwert, C.S & Dickey,T.M. & Flichtbail, J.D. 2006 ).
Both state and private schools traditionally follow the national curriculum in regards
to art education. In primary schools, most classes have art lessons at least once a week,
usually for one hour; although art may be involved in many other lessons during the
week this one hour is dedicated to art teaching and learning. Children are taught
appropriate skills to their age group with a variety of types of materials, such as paints,
charcoal, clay, crayons and pencils. Some of the art activities include illustrating topic books,
drawing and painting wall displays, colouring worksheets and free drawings. A balance is
struck between the teaching of art skills and allowing children the freedom to paint and draw
as they wish. The curriculum stresses the importance of recording observations and
focuses on drawing ( Cox, M.V & Rowlands, A . 2000 ).
Some children will show internal conflicts with a difference in drawing style and
developmental level. Some children with low self-image will often express this in their
drawings in which the child draws himself in a regressed manner, but other objects and
people in the composition will be drawn at a more age-appropriate level. A parent that is
domineering may be expressed much larger in comparison to the other family members.
Sometimes, family divisions as seen by the child will show up in the way he or she groups
the members in a drawing. For example, drawings in which body parts such as arms or legs
are left out, when the child is known to be capable of appropriate representation, can be
indicative of denial. Another variation is having the appendages drawn too small to be of any
use, and may symbolize the child’s feeling of powerlessness about the things that are
happening around him or her. A child that is depressed may choose to use only a pencil, and
make a minimal amount of investment. Children who have ADHD will often use heavy
scribbling, and might see themselves incredibly small in a classroom but normal sized on a
playground ( Jarboe, E.C. 2002 ).
Although his theory mainly concerns the development of cognition. Piaget devoted
some consideration to the role of affect in children’s development. For Piaget. emotions
and cognition are like two sides of a coin, operating in parallel (Piaget. 19W 1981 ).
Together, they form symbolic schemes, which are the building blocks of intelligence.
Emotions serve as the energy of the schemes in that they can direct a child’s interest
towards or away from certain goals. According to Piaget, emotions develop in a manner
related to cognition – earlier feelings are transformed into new structures as development
proceeds. In a frequently cited article on social referencing. Sorce. Emde. Campos. and
Klinnert ( 1 s ) placed infants at the end of a visual cliff while their mothers stood at the
opposite end. Mothers were trained to signal a certain emotion by changing only their
facial muscles. They displayed either fear, anger, sadness, interest. or joy when their
infant looked at them. Seventy-four percent of infants whose mother displayed joy
crossed the cliff. Percentages for fear, anger, sadness, and interest were 0%, I 1%. 33%.
and 73%, respectively. This indicated that infants may have based their decians to cross
the cliff on the emotions communicated by their mother. The work on social referencing
is important because it indicates that even infants are able to understand the emotions
conveyed in non-verbal emotional expressions. The concept of social referencing is
Implicit in many of the comprehensive theories of emotional development (Arsenault, M
Other drawings tests have been used to examine wider issues that look in to
how the child sees himself or herself. The Kinetic Family Drawing (KFD) is usually
given to children and is considered to project the child’s feelings about their role in the family
unit. A child is asked to draw a picture of everyone in his or her family, including
him/herself, doing something. The distance and the interaction between the figures in the
drawing are thought to be among the most psychologically meaningful features of the
drawings. Malchiodi (1998) notes that the body of research produced on children’s drawings
of their family, including the KFD, is very small with poor replication shown in larger trials.
A further projective drawing test which makes wider interpretations than merely the child and
family is the House-Tree-Person Test. The child is asked to complete separate drawings of a
house, a person and a tree. In particular, the house and tree drawings are considered to
be projections of issues relating to the child’s feelings of the home and environment
respectively. Again the criticism of both tests is similar to that of the Machover Draw-a-
Person Test – the lack of an objective scoring system.
One test that does provide an objective scoring system is the Koppitz Test, which assesses
a child’s current emotional state from a single human figure drawing. The drawing is
measured for the presence or absence of 30 emotional Drawing in clinical practice 207
indicators of emotional disturbance. Each emotional indicator was included having met
the following criteria: (1) occurred more often in the human figure drawings of
disturbed children than in those of normal children, (2) were unusual in the human
figure drawings of normal children, and (3) were not solely related to age or maturation.
In a recent and important test of Koppitz’s theory, Catte and Cox (1999) found that
emotionally disturbed children did draw significantly more indicators than control
groups, but that the number of indicators was low. Furthermore, Cox and Catte (2000)
showed that when the emotional group was matched on drawing ability to a new
control group, the difference disappeared.
The usefulness of these projective drawing tests is not only questioned on their lack
of objective scoring methods, but also on their reliance on the body-image assumption
, that is, when the child draws an unidentified human figure they project themselves. Neither
criticism can easily be levelled at the Goodenough- Harris Test of Intellectual Maturity.
Harris took into account sex differences in children’s human figure drawings, such as girls
tending to include more detail, and created separate tables for boys and girls. Separate norms
were also provided for male and female drawings. Evidence of its reliability and validity is
more promising than the projective tests, having been investigated several times and found to
be adequate and high Despite the problems associated with the abovementioned drawings
tests, clinicians may still frequently ask children to draw under more informal conditions. In
addition to drawing acting as an ‘ice-breaker’, drawings may facilitate the discussion of their
thoughts and feelings, particularly for children who have learning difficulties. This can be
especially useful where the child provides information about a traumatic event experienced.
Indeed, several studies have mentioned the extensive use of drawings to assess abuse and
neglect of children and to help them to recall important events , as well as a tool for assessing
and accessing traumatic memories . Indeed, drawings have been found to cue more accurate
recall of an event compared with a standard interview in which drawings are not made
(Bekhit, N. Thomas, G. Jolley, R. 2005). While drawings may say a great deal about the
child who creates them, what is more important are the therapeutic benefits that the process
of drawing provides (Malchiodi, C. A. 2001).
The sample consisted of 63 young people from a local school. Out of the 63 children 21
were excluded from the final sample, leaving 42 there were 28 females and 14 males. Mean
age for the sample was 6.81 (SD = 2.31). Mean age for girls was 6.86 (SD=2.55) and the
mean age for boys was 6.72 (SD=1.82).
The children were given paper and pencils and given up to an hour to complete a picture of
a person or people they knew. Each of the 42 drawings was scored across the three levels
outlined below by an expert in drawing complexity. The scores were then summed to give a
total complexity score for drawing. Scores for each subcategory ranging from 0-4 with a total
range from 0-12. Facial fetures were rated with 0 being no facial fetures to 4 facial features
with an expression and or finer detail. Body proportion was rated with 0 being -missing
features such as legs, feet, hands to 4 – clear indication of body proportion and finer details.
Picture detail was rated with 0 being no individual indicated to 4 – clear detailed drawing.
Each child was tested in a school environment. They were given paper and pencils and up
to an hour to complete a picture of a person or people that they knew.
The children were scored by an expert in drawing complexity. A total of 42 drawings were
analysed, a t-test was performed to determine the results of whether there is any difference in
complexity scores with age groups , the age groups were 1=3,5 , 2=6,8, 3=9+ years and
expected there was significant difference between ages with a p<..001. They also tested to
see if there was much difference in complexity scores between boys and girls with an M =
7.08 for girls and M= 6.8 for boys and SD=2.25, as expected there was not much significant
differences between genders.
The results of this study supported the hypotheses for gender difference in drawing
complexity there was not much significant difference, but there was a difference between age
groups as expected as there can be some situations which can hold back some children.