Child Psychology Methodology

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Methodology in Child Psychology

Definition of the application

·       About a child’s development and various aspects of the developing child. The focus is on social, emotional and cognitive development.

Naturalistic Observations

·       Take place in the participant’s natural setting

·       Participant observations – researcher is involved in situation

·       Non-participant observations – researchers remain apart from the situation

·       Overt – participants are aware that they are taking part

·       Covert – participants are not aware that they are taking part

·       Quantitative data – categories are developed and tallying is used

·       Qualitative data – if recordings and sometimes transcripts are made – so that all the detail is gathered.

·       Inter-observer reliability – can be checked by having more than one observer and comparing the findings of the different observers

Naturalistic Observations in child psychology

·       Parten (1932) – found different types of play according to child’s age. Watched free-play sessions, which meant the children were allowed to choose what they played with and how they spent their time.

·       Patterson (1982) – recorded parent-child interactions in detail to understand what triggers led to particular behaviours.

·       Crnic et al. (2005) – see whether stress in parents affected children. Questionnaires used to decipher the daily hassles that would generate stress were gathered from parents and home observations were carried out every 6 months for 2 years.

Evaluation of Crnic et al. (2005)

·       Strengths

o   Observers were carefully trained

o   Study was a non-participant overt observation, being overt makes it more ethical as participants are aware that they are involved. Also it is perhaps more objective as the observer is not involved with the situation and participants.

o   Parents were there throughout the observation – both parents were included in the study. It was possible to inform the parents fairly fully about the study so informed consent could be obtained.

·       Weaknesses

o   Observers asked the family to behave naturally however it is unlikely that a child or parents being observed will behave in the same way as if someone else was not in the home – validity can be questioned

o   Many factors contribute to family life and affect the parent-child relationship not just stress. By focusing on specific factors, others might be missed so any cause-and-effect conclusions might not be valid.

Evaluation of naturalistic observations

·       Strengths

o   Valid because in natural setting, so natural behaviour observed

o   Reliable because tallying, time sampling, prepared categories and more than one observer can give inter-observer reliability

·       Weaknesses

o   Not valid in that there is an observer, so the behaviour might be affected

o   Not valid because of observer drift, where observers move away from the plan

o   Not reliable because observation is at one time, in one situation, with particular observers, and the same situation is not likely to occur.



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