Unit 3 Psychology


Structured Observation

Strengths ­-

1) There are good controls. The behaviour being measured is controlled in a laboratory setting
so extraneous variables that might alter the behaviour are controlled or eliminated. Can be replicated.

2) Time and cost effective. The staged situation is less time consuming than naturalistic observations as it does not have to wait for spontaneous behaviour to occur.

Weaknesses ­-

1) It's a staged situation so naturally occurring behaviour is not measured. The environment is artificial so natural behaviour may not occur. 

2) There are demand characteristics. The children may alter their behaviour to meet the demands of the situation. They may guess the point of the study and not show spontaneous behaviour so data would not be valid.

1 of 12

Longitudinal Study

Strengths –  

1) Long term effects can be examined unlike cross sectional studies.

2) It controls participant variables because the same people are used

3) It can provide in-depth data as the study took place over a period of time so validity can be improved.

4) Same participants - only their age changes so it allows cause and effect to be established.

Weaknesses –

1) Time consuming and expensive as conducted over a long time and lots of resources used.

2) Hard to conclude cause and effect because there are so many other factors that change during a child’s development – not just age

3) High drop-out rate causes loss of participants due to death/moving away etc. so a small sample is left so the results could be biased

2 of 12

Naturalistic Observation

Strengths –

1) They are valid as they take place in the child’s natural settings and as a result the likelihood of demand characteristics being displayed is significantly reduced. Therefore, it is fair to assume that the behaviour being observed is real, and can be generalised to other situations.

2) Good to use naturalistic observations when dealing with children as it’s the best way to collect data as opposed to something like interviews because children can’t communicate properly at that age.

Weaknesses –

1) Children may be influenced by being observed – data not valid

2) Observer drift can occur – observers move away from what they had planned to observe – data not valid 

3) Not reliable because particular days and situtations are not replicable

3 of 12


 A 2 way emotional bond between a child and caregiver, which endures over time and where separation leads to anxiety and distress.

4 of 12


The loss of an attachment with a caregiver. An attachment which was already formed has been broken. E.g. day-care

5 of 12


Lack of an attachment figure therefore an attachment is never formed. It's the absence of an attachment with a caregiver. E.g. Genie.

6 of 12


An advancement of species through survival of the fittest. The inheritance of certain characteristics and pre-programmed behaviour that helps survival. A child stays close to survive and pass on genes.

7 of 12

Day Care

Non-parental care usually provided by nurseries or child minders. Day-care can be seen as a form of short term deprivation.

8 of 12

Separation Anxiety

When distress is shown because the attachment figure is not there. Protest, despair, detachment

9 of 12

Ainsworth - The Strange Situation

Method – 100 middle class American infants (12-18 months) and their mothers were studied. It was a controlled observation in a laboratory setting using standardised procedure.

1.     Observer shows caregiver and infant into the experimental room and then leaves.

2.     Caregiver sits and watches the child play.

3.    Stranger enters, silent at first, then talks to the caregiver, then interacts with the child.    Caregiver leaves the room.

4.    First separation. Stranger tries to interact with the infant.

5.    First reunion. Caregiver comforts child, stranger leaves. Caregiver then leaves.

6.    Second separation. Child alone.

7.     Stranger enters and tries to interact with the child.

8.     Second reunion. Caregiver comforts child, stranger leaves.

10 of 12

Ainsworth - The Strange Situation cont


Type A: Anxious Avoidant attachment – infant shows no signs of distress whenmother leaves. Infant is fine with the stranger and plays normally when the stranger is present. Infant shows little interest when mother returns. Mother and stranger are able to comfort infant equally well. 15%

Type B: Secure attachment –They were distressed when the mother leaves (separation anxiety). Avoidant of stranger when alone but friendly when mother present. Positive and happy when mother returns. Will use the mother as a safe base to explore their environment. 70%

Type C: Anxious Resistant attachment – infants shows signs of intense distress. Infant avoids the stranger – shows fear of stranger. Child approaches mother on reunion but resists contact and may even push her away. Infant cries more and explores less than the other two types. 15%

11 of 12

Ainsworth - The Strange Situation evaluation

-          High levels of control so increases reliability; can be easily replicated

-          One way mirror so child isn’t affected by the observer.

-          Has inter-rater reliability as many observers were used.

-     Structured observation so lacks ecological validity as it’s an artificial setting.

-          Ethnocentric – participants are from America so can’t generalise to other cultures.

-          Can’t generalise to children of other age groups (12-18 months) or classes

-          Can’t generalise because the sample size is too small (only 100).

-          Unethical as child is being deliberately stressed.

-          Can’t generalise to other relationships.

12 of 12


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Child Psychology resources »