Rough-and-tumble play is a fighting and chasing play. Rough-and-tumble play can be noted from 3 years on through to adolescence. Children’s behavior in rough-and-tumble play differ from a real fight. Play is usually accompanied by smiling and laughter. It usually occurs between friends and they do not hit each other hard. Participants stay together after fight. Play fights are not watched by other children.
Such differences between rough-and-tumble play and the real fight seems to be known by children themselves. In one psychological study children were shown video with a play fight and a real fight. Most children could distinguish between them. There is evidence that rough-and-tumble play has similar features across different cultures.
However, play fight might turn into a real fight. This might be done deliberately by one of the participant or because one of the participants is lack of social skills and respond to the play signals inappropriately. There is evidence that as children grow older play fights turn to real fight more often due to deliberate manipulation (Boulton, 1992; Pellegrini, 2002; Smith, 1997). For that reason teachers tend to bind rough-and-tumble play at schools.