Child Psychology Observation Assignment Sample

Child Psychology Observation Assignment Sample

Observation of Child Psychology Assignment Sample

This assignment will be documenting a two part observation which was carried out on a one year old child called Colin. It will look at the details and preparations which took place before the observation. As well as also analysing the observed behaviour using the relevant psychological perspectives, such as; Attachment Theory, Social Learning Theory, Development Theory, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Vygotsky’s Stages of Development.
Through carrying out this observation, I knew from the outset that I had to respect the family’s privacy and the psychological well-being of the child. Under the guidelines of the assignment, I carried out my observation on a one-year-old child in their home. Under the BPS code of practice for researchers, I changed the child’s identity to Colin, to keep them anonymous and ensure the data gathered was confidential, as well as any other individuals who were present during the observation. To insure the child’s safety, I also attained verbal and written consent from the child’s mother, and explained all the details in regards to the observation. I was unable to communicate and inform the child that I would be observing him as he was only 12 months old and would not have been able to understand me.
However, this did give the observation more validity as the child was unaware of the investigation I was carrying out, meaning that there were no demand characteristics or biased behaviours. The parent was made fully aware that she had the right to withdraw her child from the observations at any time if she felt the need to do so. For example, if she felt my presence was causing any stress or pressure towards the child, she could have declined any continuation of the observation.
If the mother had decided to withdraw her child from the observation, the observation would have been terminated and the information collected would have been destroyed. I also informed the mother that I would be debriefing her once the observation was completed. This is so she had a complete understanding of the nature of the research, and understood the reasons as to why I was carrying out the observation.
After a date and time had been agreed, I arrived at Colin’s house for 6pm. He was sitting on the bed beside his mother who was using her laptop; also present in the room was Colin’s brothers, Jack, who is seven and Bart who is eight. Colin was holding a T-Mobile top up card that he was playing with and placing in and out of his mouth. His brother Jack shouted at him to take the card out of his mouth and eventually snatched it away from him. Colin looked around the bed and then looked at his mother.
On the TV, the Hollyoaks theme tune began to play and Colin’s brother Bart started dancing along to the music. Colin saw his brother dancing and started laughing. Colin then stood on the bed and began to bounce up and down to the Hollyoaks theme tune, and then Bart joined him in doing so. Colin’s mother looked at him and laughed and clapped her hands to show she was happy with Colins dancing. Colin then sat on the bed and stared at the TV; he then picked up his dummy and put it in his mouth for comfort.
His brother Bart got on the bed again and started to jump up and down so Colin also attempted to do the same and began to jump up and down with him, with a big smile on his face. His brother Jack then came into the room with a plate of food; Colin then looked at him and pushed his face onto Jack’s face implying that he wanted some food. So Jack gave him some of his food but Colin spat it out. Jack then gave Colin a toy in the form of a piano to play with but Colin used his hands to hit it against the piano. The piano made a loud noise which Colin was aware of; he then looked around and smiled and then bounced to the rhythm of the sound of the piano and then continued hitting it.

Colin then stopped hitting the piano and picked it up and put it in his mouth, then slid himself off the bed. He jumped up with his arms up making a whingeing sound so his mother picked him up and put him back on the bed. Colin crawled on the bed towards his mother and moved his head on to her chest, so she gave him a hug. His mother placed him beside her and put the laptop back on to her lap. Colin then started hitting the laptop with both hands so his mother moved him to the other side of the bed; as a result, Colin began to cry again, so his mother gave him a kiss and then gave him a bottle of milk.
The house phone rang and Colin’s mother got off the bed to pick up the phone, which was outside the room. Colin then made a loud screeching noise and looked in the direction that his mum went; he then wriggled off the bed and walked out of the room to follow her. A short while after, Colin went to the bedroom door and pulled the keys out of the door and put them into his mouth, he then started shouting “Dada!” whilst shaking the keys. After this, he then walked back over to the table and picked up a packet of vitamin tablets and started shaking them, laughing to himself as he usually does. When his mother returned she took the tablets away from him and Colin began to cry again.
Through analysing the observations, it shows that Colin has a strong attachment to his mother, as he had turned to his mother for comfort and security on numerous occasions. For example, Colin looked at his mother when his brother had shouted at him for comfort, and also when she left the room to answer the phone, he had followed her, showing signs of attachment.
attachment is a long lasting emotional bond between two individuals involving their seeking proximity to each other and having pleasure in each other’s company” (Collins, 1995)
John Bowlby was the founder of the attachment theory he provided highly extensive research to the concept of attachment, describing attachment as a
A lasting psychological connectedness between human beings (Bowlby, 1969)”
Bowlby uses this theory to explain how attachment is developed and formed in close relationships. It is a special emotional relationship that involves an exchange of comfort, care, and pleasure.
John Bowlby spent a lot of time researching the concept of attachment, describing it as a ‘lasting psychological connectedness between human being (Bowlby, 1969). Bowlby shared the psychoanalytic view that early experiences in childhood have an important influence on development and behaviour later in life, in a sense where people’s attachment styles are created in childhood through the relationship between the child and the caregiver. In its earliest stages, attachment and its applications focus on the quality of parent-child relationships, however, now it has been expanded to consider relationships and emotional behaviour across an individual’s lifespan.
As per the theory, attachment can be understood as long term relationship among human being which makes their perspectives and point of views align with each other. The prime quest of the theory is to illustrate that amount of parent’s relationship, which can influence the development of a child in the long run. The theory emerged in the situation when after the World War II; there were a number of orphaned children, who required some intensive amount of care and attachments from the side of their primary caregiver.
Attachment can be explained as a biological drive that brings infants into close protective closeness with their main carers, whenever they feel an experience of anxiety, fear or distress, this then occurs. It is likely that when Colin’s mother had left the room, he may have felt a sense of insecurity leading to distress, which may have then caused the loud screech he made when she had left. This was probably an action to gain attention, but as his mother did not respond, he decided to follow her instead. Through this, he received the pleasure of comfort that he was looking for.
Referring back to the observation of when Colin was dancing, he was imitating his brother, which links back to Bandura’s Social Learning Theory. Observational or social learning is based primarily on the work of Albert Bandura. He and his colleagues were able to demonstrate through a variety of experiments that the application of consequences was not necessary for learning to take place. Rather learning could occur through the simple processes of observing someone else’s activity. The social learning can be understood as the result of observation and experience of a person in his surrounding environment. Whatever an individual sees and feels in his surrounding environment, is directly absorbed by his cognitive learning in the most effective manner. In the case of children, the impact of social learning and observations becomes quite vital as cognitive learning of children is more frequent, stronger and more effective in comparison to adults. This work provided the foundation for Bandura’s later work in Social cognition. With regards to this Bandura conducted the Bobo Doll Experiments in 1961.  The Bobo doll experiment is widely cited in psychology as a demonstration of observational learning and demonstrated that children are more likely to engage in violent play with a life size rebounding doll after watching an adult do the same. These experiments ultimately studied patterns of behaviour associated with aggression. The presented experiment is directed to reflect that children have tendency of learning and adopting the behaviour directly from their elders. In direction to this, the learning of children can be considered quite dependent and subjective, which can be mould by changes in the surrounding environment. Through these studies he managed to show how specific behaviour is in fact learned through observation and vicarious reinforcement.

Although observational learning can take place at any stage in life, it is thought to be particularly important during childhood, particularly as authority becomes important. Because of this, social learning theory has influenced debates on the effect of television violence and parental role models. With regards to my observation it shows how children observe and imitate the people around them. This is part of a process, which enables behaviours that can help later on in life. Imitation is one of the most fundamental mechanisms of the process of social learning, as a parent knows, that children learn by copying other people’s actions and behaviour. Therefore, Colin’s mother clapping her hands to show she was amused by Colin’s dancing is a form of praise and reward. Children are most likely to imitate behaviour when they have been rewarded for doing so.
“…people whom they see receiving rewards, or people whose actions result in a pleasant outcome, than people who are not rewarded.”(Bandura,1977).
Imitation is very helpful in helping Social Workers understand how people act in the world. Imitation involves the copying of a certain act or set of actions and allows the child to learn a range of physical skills. Through imitating, children are able to learn a lot more than they could possibly gain if they had to be directly taught all the time. Imitation can be illustrated as one of the prime cognitive feature and characteristic of a human being which shows his innate qualities and characteristics of changing his behavior according to his role model or elder. The projection of the behavior of other person from different background in own personality, shows the transfer of knowledge from one entity to another without having any genetic inheritance. In this way, from the perspective of long term sustainability of society, the imitation can play a vital role as it helps in transfer of knowledge, customs, and social behavior from one generation to another in the most effective manner.
“Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behaviour is learned observationally through modelling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviours are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action”. (Bandura, 1977)
In order for Colin to have mirrored his brother’s actions, he must have therefore been paying attention to take in what he was seeing. Retention remembering is taking what you have learnt and then being able to act it out, this is a type of memory Colin had displayed in relation to imitating his older brother.
Also rewarding a child also reinforces such behaviour. Reinforcement is one on the main points in the form of learning, according to Watson and Pavlov, learning is strengthened or reinforced by repeating the difference between the stimulus and the response several time.
Abraham Maslow developed a model in which basic, low level needs such as psychological requirements and safety must be satisfied before higher level needs such as self fulfillment are pursued. The model of hierarchy of need presented by Maslow is directed to reflect different types of needs pursued by an individual in different conditions. The level and type of the need pursued by a human being may be quite different from each other, which may depend upon his requirements and situation. For the purpose of purpose of making the individual thoroughly satisfied and motivated, it is quite essential to understand, what type of needs he actually requires. In context to this, from my observation with Colin, it looks like Colin’s physiological needs are being met e.g. water, sleep, nourishment, and air.
This is the lower level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943). With regards to this I also think that his safety needs are being met, e.g. safety and security. The next stage would be his social needs however at this stage I don’t think that Colin is aware of this. Even though I think these needs are being, I also believe that they are not being met to their full potential. For example by playing with his brothers he is fulfilling a social need. I’m also not sure if his esteem needs are being met because at this stage Colin is unaware of the role that he plays within his family. Colin has also not yet reached self actualisation and he has a very long way to go, because according to Maslow no stage can be skipped and each stage must be fully fulfilled and achieved before an individual can move onto the next stage. If there becomes a situation in which are needs are not being met, according to Maslow, our energies are devoted towards satisfying them, because obtaining food and drink and having shelter is more important than anything else.
At Colin’s age he has sensory motor skills and he is learning about the world through the sensations of feeling, tasting, touching, smelling etc. Colin is also at the stage where he can tell the difference between friends and strangers and even family members, as he is old enough to recognise familiar faces and differentiate them from new faces.

According to Piaget, children aged 0-2 years use sensorimotor stimuli. By the time they get to the ages of between 2-7 years they are able to master the association of symbols or words with objects. For example head, shoulders knees and toes. Also at this stage children grasp language perspectives oriented to one self, the foundation of the sensory motor skills has also developed. This stage of development is called the Pre-operational stage.  When they reach the ages of 7-12 years children are able to speak confidently with a deep understanding of what they are saying. They are also able to begin to understand the abstract and are capable of reasoning.
Piaget calls this stage the Concrete operational. At the age of 12-19 you’re a teenager, teenagers have the full reasoning capacity and can consider multiple viewpoints. Full comprehension has also been developed; this is the Formal operational stage.
Piaget and Vygotsky view child development from two different perspectives. Piaget focused on the biological view, whose main concern was maturation. However, Piaget did not attribute much importance to socio- cultural. Vygotsky on the other hand was a psychologist, whose concern was with the social environment of the child, and its implications for the child.
This is the central concept in the model of development is that of the Zone of Proximal Development. ZPD is about the difference between what a child can do independently and what the child is able to achieve when helped by other people. As per the model, education helps the child to enhance his Zone of Proximal development, which allows him to become an effective learner and can learn social norms with the help of the guidance and examples of his elders.
As shown in the observation Colin learned through copying and observing his brothers. Without social interaction Colin development and understanding would be much more limited.With regards to anti-oppressive practices and the human rights of observation participants certain guidelines and rules were adhered to. According to Parrott (2006) anti-oppressive social work practice aims to counter the sources of oppression in society, whether public stereotypes discrimination, social and economic disadvantage or unequal distribution of power.
Anti-oppressive practice represents a general value guide towards counteracting oppression by service users on such grounds as race, gender, class, disability, age, language, and sexuality. Whilst I observed Colin, I tried to work in an anti-oppressive way, by respecting the family’s views and beliefs.  Throughout the observation I had to keep any personal feelings to myself as there were lot of things which the family did that professionally and personally I didn’t agree with. Therefore in hindsight I can honestly say that I carried out the observation to the best of my ability.


Bandura, A (1977). Social learning theory. New York: Prentice-Hall
Bowlby, J (1969), Attachment and loss, Random House, 1, pp 215-219.
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation, Psychological review, 50 (4), pp 370
Piaget, J. (1964), Part I: Cognitive development in children: Piaget development and learning, Journal of research in science teaching, 2 (3), pp 176-186.
Garbarino, J, Kostelny, K, and Dubrow, N (1991). What children can tell us about living in danger. American Psychologist, 46(4), pp 376.