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Observing Children Essay Examples


Observing Children

Boy-3 years old, Girl-4 years old, Mother.
My hypothesis was to determine the effects of maternal presence versus absence on sibling behavior.
This observation took place in the children’s home.  As a playroom they used the living room because that is where all their toys are.  For my observation I used both the siblings and their mother.  During the observation I was present including the children and their mother.  I am not related to those children.  I happened to meet them a couple of times because they are related to my boyfriend.  I do not see the children frequently.  I will see them only when my boyfriend’s family will invite us to a family get together.  I did not interact with the children at all, only the mother interacted with them.


In my study I only observed a mixed sex pair of siblings.  Where the sister was older than her brother.  The mother and the two siblings were observed in the family’s home, in their living room, instead of a playroom laboratory.  I started the observation at 5:00 PM.  Five minutes before I started my study I explained to the mother that she would have to interact with the children for almost an hour.  Then I told her that she would have to leave the room for around the same time, so that the children may interact without her presence.  I also explained that after the children were done playing together alone that she would have to come back and ask them to put their toys away.  This was the order that the activities were executed and my observation was completed by 7:00 PM.  I recorded all of their actions by keeping written notes.  I had the mother’s permission to record their activities.  The mother was only aware of this, the children did not know that they were being observed.
The first chart I used was a checklist in which I observed “the behaviors (of siblings) during maternal absence versus presence.” (Linda, Musun-Miller (1991). Effects of Maternal Presence on Sibling Behavior. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 12, see table 2, p. 150).  In addition, I used a second chart as a checklist in order to record the children’s interaction according to the sex of the child and the presence of the mother.  The behavioral coding system for these charts was obtained “from one used in earlier research involving home observations of family interactions (Baskett, 1984, 1985; Baskett & Johnson, 1982) and was based in turn upon an earlier version of the Family Interaction Coding System (FICS; Patterson, Ray, Shaw, & Cobb, 1970; see Appendix for a complete listing of the codes used).” (Linda, Musun-Miller (1991). Effects of Maternal Presence on Sibling Behavior. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 12, see table 3, p. 151).
The results in my charts do not show percentages, because it was not possible for me to use the multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVAs) in my study as in the article.  Instead, I used “M” for more and “L” for less in order to explain which subject category displayed more or less of a specific behavioral code.  This is shown by placing a check under “M” or “L” based on each type of behavior.  I added these options to the charts so that my observations could be as precise as possible.
Toys and props that were used by the subjects were an alphabetical puzzle, a water gun, a Barbie doll, a table cloth and a toy cassette player,  because those toys were available to them.  The purpose of this observation was to see how children interact with each other when playing together alone versus the presence of an adult and specifically their mother.


The results of my studies were based on how the children’s behavior during interaction was affected by the presence and absence of the mother.  Below I will explain some of the results of the children’s behaviors that were observed.  According to my first chart, I noticed that when the mother was interacting with the siblings, they would be more approving, attending, helping, whining, interacting, noncomplying, physically positive and receiving.  On the other hand, when the mother was absent the siblings displayed more command, deviant behavior, disapproval, independent activity, negative physical contact, talking, requesting, laughing, teasing, compliance and ignoring.
According to my second chart, the boy during the absence of his mother  he engaged in more attending, compliance, deviant behavior, disapproval, independent activity, ignoring, negative physical contact and talk.  Whereas the girl in this situation displayed the opposite responses.  During the presence of his mother the boy displayed in more approval, talking, disapproval, independent play, ignoring and whine.  Whereas the girl in this situation displayed the opposite responses.


Comparing the results of my observations on children’s behavior during maternal absence and presence to the results as described in the article, I found many similarities as well as some differences.  Based on the article’s results and my results, when the mother is present, children are more likely to be attentive, helpful, and play or work in an cooperative environment, especially girls.  When she is absent children are more likely to play independently, but also to talk and interact negatively, especially boys.  In contrast with the results in the article, I found that the boy is more talkative and less teasing than the girl during the absence of the mother.  In addition, during the absence of the mother the boy is more in physical negative contact and compliance than the girl but the girl is more requesting during the presence of the mother.  It is true though that “how the children interacted with each other seemed to be more the result of the give and take between them than of differential maternal treatment.” (Linda, Musun-Miller, 1991, p.154)

Based on Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, “children even at the age of 4 are in the preoperational stage.  In this stage those children think with words and objects in an intuitive manner, with judgments based on perceptions rather than logic.  Thinking is limited by the inability to deal with more than one variable at a time.  Children at the age of 6  years of age are included in the concrete operational stage.  In this stage, children think logically and expand knowledge.  They use reasoning rather than perceptions to justify their judgments.  Their thinking is still limited, however, to concrete, tangible objects and familiar events.” (Anselmo and Franz, 1995, p. 11)

According to Anselmo and Franz, “Children advance in the following areas of language during the early school years (such as 6   years old): word derivation, noun and verb phrase use, use of varied sentence types, production of speech sounds, vocabulary growth, reflection on language use, and complexity of language.  Appropriate adult assistance involves responding contingently, proving communication settings, and instructing.” (Anselmo and Franz, 1995, p.514)   In contrast, “Before the age of five, children are still using the basic sentence structure: agent-action-object-locative.  Consequently, they don’t understand any sentences that transform the basic form into a more complex one, such as passive sentences (“The window was broken by the ball”).  (Anselmo and Franz, 1995, p.501)

According to the theory of Erikson, “During the preschool years (approximately 3 to 5 years old), children are challenged to either take initiative or suffer the effects of guilt; during the school years (approximately 6 t 12 years old), they learn either industry or inferiority.” (Anselmo and Franz, 1995, p.427)  In addition, “preschool children have difficulty conceptualizing the inner, psychological needs of themselves and others.  Around six years of age, that children overcome their egocentrism.” (Anselmo and Franz, 1995, p.439)  Moreover, cooperation is an important behavior to develop in children.  Working cooperatively on a project brings about favorable attitudes toward those in the group and that working competitively can encourage negative attitudes.  Bronfenbrenner  (1970) has argued that cooperation encourages an “we” mental set, whereas competition encourages an “I” mental set.” (Anselmo and Franz, 1995, p.441)

I believe there is bias in my estimations of the children’s performance and abilities because there are some sources in the article that are different from what I used.  In addition there are sources that I was unable to use in my study.  A possible source may be the fact that the observation in the article took place in a playroom laboratory, rather than a home setting (which I used for my observation) where children feel more comfortable.  Also, for my study I used only one pair of siblings instead of a total of 40 children (20 sibling pairs) as it was used in the article.  The pair that I used was a mixed-sex pair, which had the girl as the older child.  According to the article “an equal number of boys, girls, same-sex and mixed-sex pairs were included.  Half of the mixed-pairs had an older boy and half had a girl as the older child.” (Linda Musun-Miller, 1991, p.147)  In addition, videotapes which were coded by using a 21-category coding system and the multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVAs) were performed in the study of the article.

As you understand, it was impossible for me to use the exactly same method on my charts (which include the same behavioral categories as in the article), so what I changed was the fact that I added an “M” for more and an “L” for less under the words “boy” and “girl” in order for my observations to be as precise as possible.  Then I marked each behavior with a check.  According to Fewell (1984), ” In order to develop a useful checklist, behaviors must be clearly defined and listed beforehand-the usefulness of the checklist depends on whether it includes all possible key behaviors.” (Ann E. Boehm, Richard A. Weinberg, 1997, p.33)  Even though I used running records a videotape would help more because of, “the impossibility of recording all of a subject’s behaviors, due to the recorder’s inability to write fast enough.  The use of audiotape or videotape may solve these problems.” (Boehm and Weinberg, 1997, p.31)

hypothesis was to determine the effects of maternal presence versus absence on sibling behavior.  For this study, 40 children (20 sibling pairs) and their mothers were selected, and they were observed interacting in a laboratory playroom for a total of 30 minutes.  The age range of the children was from 4 to 9 years old.  The mothers were asked to be present for half of that time and absent for the other half.  Several tables based on a 21-category coding system of the FICS   (Family Interaction Coding System) and videotapes were used for this research.  The siblings displayed several differences in their behaviors depending on whether their mothers were present or absent.  When mothers were interacting with their siblings, the children engaged in more attending, helping, and interacting.  When mothers were absent, siblings displayed  in more disapproval, independent play, ignoring, negative physical contact, talking, and teasing.

Maternal presence also interacted significantly with sex of each individual child and the sex of the sibling pair.  These findings indicate that who is present does make a difference in the types of behaviors observed during family interactions.  Mothers may play a facilitative role in terms of prosocial or “proper” behavior when they are present whereas when she lives a wider variety of behavior and a greater incidence of antagonistic behavior by siblings may occur.  Whether the goal of family observation research is to determine normal patterns of family interaction or target dysfunctional families for intervention, care must be taken regarding which family members are included in any observation session.” (Linda Musun-Miller (1991). Effects of Maternal Presence on Sibling Behavior. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 12, p. 145-157)

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