A study of 44 Sheffield boys aged six to eight found that only 1 per cent of "play" fights turned serious. But teachers estimated that around 30 per cent of serious fights grew out of playing. Play fights are governed by rules of engagement and turned nasty only when someone was unintentionally hurt or if troublemaker provoked the other child.
Professor Peter K Smith of Goldsmiths College's department of psychology, one of the researchers, said teachers may overestimate the problem because they are focusing on the troublemakers. In a paper for the Association for the Study of Play conference in Baltimore, Maryland, Professor Smith and his fellow researchers said teachers viewed rough and tumble play less positively than the children did.