The CID Lens: Looking at Children’s Drawings Using Content, Interpretive, and Developmental Methods

By Ute Haring and Reesa Sorin.

Published by The International Journal of Arts Education

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 13, 2014 $US5.00

For many years, researchers have tried to comprehend the meaning of children’s drawings (Kindler, 2010). They assumed that children express their emotions and their personality in their pictures, including conscious and unconscious fears, hopes, trauma, conflicts, and fantasies, opening a window to a child’s mind and soul (Cox, 1992; Di Leo, 1983; Kavanagh, 1998; Kolbe, 2005; Krenz, 2004; Malchiodi, 1998). However, as Rubin (1984) observed: “deciphering a child’s symbolic art messages is a complex, shifting and variable one” (74). The aim of this research was to critically analyse relevant interpretations of children’s art, to find commonalities in various methods and to determine their effectiveness in particular for the analysis of children’s drawings. Further, it aimed to find a workable method for educators to interpret children’s drawings. The research employed a qualitative approach, using comparative document analysis to critically examine methods for analysing children’s drawings. Several methods of analysing children’s drawings have been suggested, including looking at drawings in relation to a child’s development, classifying the content of the artworks, and trying to understand children’s art from various other perspectives and interpretations. This resulted in the identification of three method categories for analysing children’s art: developmental analysis, content analysis, and interpretive analysis, with three approaches from each method selected and trialled with children’s drawings. The research question was: “How can we, as educators, make sense of children’s drawings?” Findings from this study demonstrate a need to move from monopolistic to holistic methods of interpreting children’s drawings, from a content-dominated analysis to one that includes interpretive and developmental methods. By combining existing methods into an easier-to-apply form, teachers will be better equipped to take on the task of interpreting children’s drawings. The content-interpretive-developmental (CID) method of analysing children’s drawings was created as an outcome of this study, with suggestions for approaches within this method to get a rich understanding. Further, this research suggests that children’s art provides great insight into children’s learning and development; and that children need to be guided beyond stereotypical drawing. The arts, often overlooked in schools, need to be seen as important components of curriculum, as they offer great benefits for the developing child. Educators would be interested in the meanings and messages of the child’s artwork as a way of understanding the whole child and as a way to support the child’s learning in an individual and personalised way.

Keywords: Interpreting Children's Drawings, Content Analysis, Interpretive Analysis, Developmental Analysis

The International Journal of Arts Education, Volume 8, Issue 3, December 2014, pp.15-29. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 13, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 678.004KB)).

Ute Haring

Doctoral Student, School of Education, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Assoc. Prof. Reesa Sorin

Associate Professor, School of Education, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia