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Too Much Fun: Toys as Social Problems and the Interpretation of Culture


Direct all correspondence to Joel Best, Department of Sociology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901–4524, e-mail:


Toys are a frequent subject of contemporary claims concerning social problems. Rooted in our culture's longstanding ambivalence regarding leisure and its concerns about children's vulnerability, claims about troublesome toys also reflect anxiety about children's increased susceptibility to non-familial influences, their growing access to toys, and an expanded toy industry, as well as an active social movement sector. Typically, these claims argue that toys represent undesirable values, and that children who play with the toys acquire those values. Parallel arguments may be found in claims regarding other forms of popular and material culture. Interactionists should be wary of making or accepting these claims, because rather than treating children's play as a topic (or empirical study, such claims locate meaning in objects, rather than actors.