Disturbances in the Child’s Relationship to Inner and Outer Pictures of Reality

A friend sent me an article on the “Disturbances in the Child’s Relationship to Inner and Outer Pictures of Reality“:

Two pediatricians from a German municipal health office studied the capacity for pictorial perception among two thousand preschool children ages five and six prior to school entrance. In order to determine the children’s cognitive maturity and their pictorial perception and reproduction abilities in particular, they administered the so-called draw-a-person test, in which the  children were to draw pictures of a person. The drawings were later evaluated by the pediatric medical doctors according to specific criteria, e.g. head-torso relationship, number of fingers on each hand, dynamic or static quality of the drawing, depiction of eyes and noses, and so forth. In this manner, it was possible to distinguish high-performing from low-performing children in each of the tested areas. The children’s scores were then compared to their average daily consumption of television and (in row C, below) to the daily extent of their “passive smoking,” that is, the number of cigarettes smoked by their mothers and fathers in the children’s presence.

After looking at the pictures from the article, I asked Aristotle to draw a picture of his father so I could compare his drawings with the results from the study. This is what he drew:

My Daddy

Hmmm… should I be worried? It looks like the picture of the children from category C – the passive smokers and the TV watchers.

Update 18/1/2013:

Okay, so I was a bit concerned about Aristotle’s drawing… So I asked him to draw another picture. I asked him to draw a picture of his family. I really meant for him to draw Daddy, himself, his brother and me but he decided to draw his own family – as in the one in the future – of himself, his wife and his two kids. Interestingly, he has decided he is going to have a boy and a girl. The boy will look like him and the girl will look like his future wife but I digress…

This is what he came up with:

My Family

Looks more like the pictures from category A, right?

But I have a confession…

Before he drew the picture, I left this lying around:

Mum's drawing

It’s a picture that I drew – and yes, I realise it says a lot about my artistic skills, or lack thereof. And I realise that this is like leaving the answers to a test your child is going to sit for lying around. Technically, that negates the results of the test but if supplying Aristotle with a simple picture before hand can help him to add more detail to his own drawing, then what is the significance of this study upon a child who has attended art classes and been specifically taught how to draw? If I had sent Aristotle for art classes and made him practice drawing people, he would inevitably be better at this task and could possibly have drawn better than the kids in category A. Does this suggest that it is possible to help a child correct the disturbance between his inner and outer pictures of reality, if such a disturbance existed?

Food for thought…

After the second drawing test, I showed Aristotle the article and discussed the findings with him. Then we analysed both of his drawings together and talked about what it suggested. The discussion proved fruitful in helping him to re-assess his screen time. He agreed on the importance of having a balanced life and in making sure that his was balanced. I was delighted to see that after our little discussion, he decided to spend his afternoon away from the screen, choosing to do more drawing and to read some books instead.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

7 thoughts on “Disturbances in the Child’s Relationship to Inner and Outer Pictures of Reality

  1. Hahaha….don’t know how true it’s but when I compare V’s pictures to the article, looks like she is in category A…..I personally notice hers is very detailed and full of imagination……….


    1. Fz – actually, I’m wondering whether there are parents who can disprove this… i.e. children don’t watch more than 3 hours of TV and/or are passive smokers who draw pictures like those in Cat B or C. Or children who are but draw pictures like those in Cat A.

      For us, hard to say. Aristotle’s pencil skills have always been poor but intellectual development in language is advance. He is not in the presence of smokers while they are smoking (unless we are out and happen to pass people who are smoking), but according to some articles, even if children are in contact with people who smoke away from them, they are still considered passive smokers because of the residual smoke on the clothes of smokers. That being the case, both my boys are passive smokers…


  2. Last week I happened to attend an “art analyze forum” organized by one art school here in PJ area, I didn’t enquire further the credentials of the artist who happened to be the principal of that school as well, also we don’t follow any art school thus far inlluding the one I just mentioned… but I was recommended by a friend to attend the forum so I went, brought together V’s drawing for the artist to comment…In that forum, a lot of parents in that school came with drawings drew by their kids during art sessions in that school…..I personally notice few important facts and deeply understand reasons behind…. i.e. Art does go together with child’s mental development, i.e. A normal child at age 2/3/4/5/6/7 would have certain arts skill and thinking comes together with them and in them, that is, if you look at any child’s drawing, perhaps you can make wild guess of which year should he/she in OR the creativity path that the child possesses as well as mental development…..certain kids are very rich in creative thinking, it was a wonder to behold and their pictures depict that, with wild ideas. Again, I also saw some kids eventhough at age of 6, let alone their drawing skill that was poor, but also their imaginative skills looked quite backward. That finding actually stunned me after seeing more than 100 drawings analyzed by the same artist one by one…..I couldn’t believe the constant playing/reading of tablet gaming does impact/retard a child’s imaginative skill so much…


  3. When I wrote my comment, I didn’t read in details the article posted, I only compared drawings with V’s drawing in that article, only now I read the article in details and it’s strikingly similar the findings in the article and the same artist with exclusion of passive/active smoking ideas, it wasn’t discussed/related at all in that forum.


  4. Personally, I have always felt that art helps to develop creativity in an individual but I never thought about it in reverse. Then again, after re-testing Aristotle, I see the results can change with a little artistic prompting… Which would mean that if a 6 year old child has had art lessons teaching them to draw realistically, this test cannot be a valid measure. Unless we are looking at children with no formal art class experience?


  5. I think I should clarify here, as far as I know, the kids are not taught AT ALL to draw in the class, they were only told stories by instructor to them or by listening to pieces of music played to them and with that they had to draw on their own what they thought to be in the story or the music that had inspired them…. no couching as to what to draw or what not to….that’s why I could see the drawings were very very original and very “child-ish” ….It’s very unconventional theapproach, that’s why I was attracted to it and wanted to know further….But still, I haven’t got time to join yet cause too busy….


  6. Fz – the program you mentioned sounds interesting. May I have the details?

    Actually, I was making reference more so to the children in the study. There is no mention of previous art experiences or lack thereof.


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