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Research Methods:


Research Methods: In Child Psychology Research plan: 1. Theory 2. Hypothesis 3. Method to test hypothesis. 4. Conduct study (gather data) 5. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Research Methods:

Research Methods
  • In Child Psychology

Research plan
  • 1. Theory
  • 2. Hypothesis
  • 3. Method to test hypothesis.
  • 4. Conduct study (gather data)
  • 5. Conclusions -- does data support our theory
    or not?

Say we wanted to study all 5 yr-olds social
behavior in the US?
  • Could we do this????

No!!! It would be too exhaustive
  • Instead get a representative sample of 5-yr-olds
  • That reflects entire population of 5 yr-olds in
    the US.

Poor Sample 1
  • A researcher wants to study the way childrens
    vocabularies change over time. Living near a
    private nursery school in a rather affluent
    suburban community, she selects thirty 3-year
    olds and thirty 5-year olds from the school
    population and carefully tests their vocabulary
    levels. Based on the performance of these
    children of professional parents the investigator
    reports that she now has a set of norms or
    guidelines for what may be expected of
    preschoolers vocabulary knowledge.
  • Whats wrong with this sample?????

Problems with Sample 1
  • 1. Kids of professionalstend to have larger
    vocabularies than kids of less educated folks.
  • 2. Kids in this samplenot representative of
    kids across US.
  • 3. This nursery school is likely to be superior
    in quality to a school in the ghetto.

Poor Sample 2
  • You are interested in the development of
    aggressive behavior in children. You select a
    sample of children who have been brought to a
    psychological clinic because of family problems.
    There are 30 boys and 5 girls in the sample, and
    all come from a poor part of a large urban area.
    You evaluate various aspects of the childrens
    behavior by watching them play with other
    children and by asking them how they would
    resolve a dispute with a peer. You assess how
    well each childs parents get along and how much
    TV the children watch. Ultimately, you conclude
    that boys are more aggressive than girls, and
    that aggression in children is related both to
    watching a lot of TV viewing and to parental
  • Whats wrong with this sample????

Problems Sample 2
  • 1. Families who bring their kids to clinicsmay
    be different than families who dont.
  • 2. Conclusions regarding gender cannot be
    validly drawn from this sample.
  • 3. Sample focuses on poor kids, not
    representative of kids in pop.

National Survey
  • Is a nationally representative group of people.
  • E.g., National Longitudinal Survey of Youth
    (NLSY) started in 1979.
  • Survey participantsdrawn from 235 areas,
    including 485 countries and cities across US.

Data Collection
  • A. Self-Reports
  • 1. Childrens Self-Reports
  • Problems with these???

On self reports, children may be
  • less attentive
  • slower to respond
  • Unable to understand questions.

Kids should only be interviewed alone!!
  • Although usually truthful, kids will tend to be
    less truthful if a parent is present during

2. Self-reports Family members
  • 1. Based on multiple observations over time in a
    variety of situations.
  • 2. The parents perceptions of the child can be
  • 3. Whats the family structure?

  • 1. Parents--less likely to report problems with
    their childs development.
  • 2. Parents may provide inaccurate reports of
    their childcare practices.
  • Why?????

Methods to improve family reports
  • 1.  Ask about recent events.
  • 2.  Phone parents nightly ask about specific
    behaviors (hitting, etc.)
  • 3. Have parents keep behavior diary.
  • 4. Have parents carry (cell phone) to be called
    at random times, to assess behavior.

3. Teachers and Peers may give reports
  • 1. Ask childs peers to rate how well liked
    he/she is (I like playing with Jane alot.)
  • Tells you-- childs social status!!
  • 2. Teachers--rate childs performance in class
    on several dimensions.

B. Direct Observation
  • Allows us to see child in action.
  • Problems
  • 1. Children often act differently at home than
    at school.
  • 2. People respond different when being observed.

Methods of observation
  • Specimen record (records everything a child does
    for a fixed period of time). Gets broad range of
  • Event sampling (only records instances when
    particular behavior occurs.)
  • Time sampling (researcher checks off any of the
    behaviors listed on a sheet that occur during a
    predetermined time period).

Correlation studies
  • Yields a measure of the strength and direction of
    the relationship between two or more factors.
  • Correlation coefficient (1.00 to 1.00)
  • Sign ( or -) of correlation indicates direction
    of relationship.
  • Number-indicates magnitude of relationship.

Weight Huston (1995) study
  • Studied TV viewing of preschool kids in
    low-income areas.
  • Kids were 2 or 4 at start of study, 5 or 7 at
  • Parents recorded kids behavior (including TV
  • Every year, kids took a variety of cognitive
    achievement tests.

  • Kids who watched educational TV (Sesame Street)
    tended to have higher cognitive achievement
    scores (r.25, plt.05).
  • Regular TV was negatively correlated with
    cognitive achievement.
  • Did watching Sesame Street cause the kids higher
    test scores?

No causal inferences can be drawn here!
  • 1. Bright kids may be drawn to educational
  • 2. Kids watching educational TV- may have
    parents who spend time educating them.

Experiments Does X cause Y?
  • Two basic designs
  • 1. Between-Subjects Design
  • 2. Within-subjects Design

Variables (factors)
  • What is an independent variable (IV) ???
  • What is dependent variable (DV) ??
  • The IV is expected to influence the DV.

Field Experiment- Friedrich Stein (1973)
  • Kids in nursery school --examined for 3 wks to
    get baseline level of aggressive behavior.
  • Then over 4 wk period, kids watched 30 min. of TV
    a day. Kids randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups.
  • Group 1 aggressive (Batman cartoons)
  • Group 2 gentle (Mr. Rogers)
  • Group 3 neutral (circus shows).
  • Recorded kids aggressive behavior following
    TV exposure.

  • Kids (high in baseline aggression) acted more
    aggressively after watching the Batman cartoons,
    than the other types of shows.
  • Kids low in aggression showed no change after
    watching Batman.

Case Study
  • Study one child for an extensive period of time.
  • Allows for an in-depth look at a particular

Studying Change over time
  • The Cross-Sectional method study several age
    groups simultaneously.
  • The Longitudinal Method study same individuals
    for extended period of time.

Sequential Method
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