The Difference between Gender and Age in Drawing

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,

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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.

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