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Penn Child Research Center

The Penn Interactive Peer Play Scale (PIPPS)

During early childhood, an essential emergent competency is establishing effective relationships with peers. The degree to which children master this developmental challenge influences academic and social success. Early in life, play is the primary context for the development of positive relationships with peers. Through play, children develop the social, emotional, cognitive, and language skills that contribute to the ability to establish and maintain effective peer interactions. For this reason, professional organizations such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the International Association for Childhood Education emphasize the importance of play as a core component of every early childhood curriculum (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997).

In the context of observing children’s play, parents and teachers have opportunities to connect with each other to enhance children’s development. In addition to information provided by teachers about children’s social functioning at school, parents also provide valuable information about their children’s competencies and needs based on behaviors exhibited at home (Fantuzzo & Hampton, 2000). One method that provides accurate and consistent information across multiple informants and multiple settings is the behavioral rating scale.


The Penn Interactive Peer Play Scale (PIPPS) is a behavioral rating instrument useful for understanding peer play behaviors and for meeting the need for congruent play assessment measures for parents and teachers across settings during early childhood (Fantuzzo & McWayne, 2002). The PIPPS was developed in partnership with Head Start parents and teachers to assess the peer play interactions of children living in high-risk urban areas. This assessment system consists of parallel versions of parent and teacher rating scales, as well as parallel versions for use in preschool and kindergarten. The parent version assesses play in the home and neighborhood, whereas the teacher version examines play in the classroom and at school. Each version consists of 32 four-point Likert-scale items, which indicate how often the parent or teacher has observed the behavior during free play in the previous two months (i.e., “never,” “seldom,” “often,” or “always”). The items assess both competencies and needs within play to identify children who demonstrate successful peer relationships and those who have difficulties with peers.

There are three dimensions of the PIPPS:

  • Play Interaction is an indication of children’s play strengths and includes such behaviors as comforting and helping other children, showing creativity in play, and encouraging others to join play
  • Play Disruption describes aggressive, antisocial behaviors that interfere with on-going peer play interactions.
  • Play Disconnection reflects withdrawn behavior and nonparticipation in peer play.


Use, Qualifications, and Limitations

The PIPPS was developed for use with teachers and with parents or primary caregivers of children in preschool and kindergarten. It is to be used for research purposes only and should not be used for diagnostic or other testing purposes. This measure was developed and validated using a target population of children in a large urban school district, which serves a large percentage of low-income, minority children. Use of these norms with a very different population is not recommended, in keeping with national standards for educational and psychological testing (Standard 12.3, AERA, APA, & NCME, 1999).