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Naturalistic Observation Method

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: General Studies
Wordcount: 936 words Published: 8th May 2017

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Naturalistic Observation Instructions


Naturalistic observation is a method that is used to collect behavioral data in real life situations. The researcher needs to be careful not to interfere with the natural setting. Data can be gathered by observing from a distance without making the subject aware that he/she is been observed. The researcher can also join the setting and became a part of it so as to gain the trust of the subjects. As a result the subjects will behave normally. The observation may be direct or indirect. In the direct method the researcher is present in the setting but in the indirect method other means such as video recordings are used. Indirect method allows the observer to capture activities that would easily be unnoticed. Direct method on the other hand allows the observer to focus on particular areas of interest.

Case study

This is a naturalistic observation of a child and his parents in a health care facility.

Am African-American family is sited in the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's waiting room. It is 9 am and the hospital has a sizeable number of patients to attend to. The young boy is approximately 7 to 9 years of age. He is wearing a blue T- shirt and blank trousers. His mother a full figured lady is in a red and white poker dots dress. The father is quite tall approximately 5'7”, he is in a long sleeved purple shirt, a black tie and black pants. He appears to be dressed up for work.

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As the observation begins the family sits quietly in the waiting room. The husband and wife converse in low tones. The young boy keenly observes the hospital environment, often turning his head and moving around his chair. His father signals him to sit still. The boy looks at his mother and goes back to his sit. However, a few minutes later he starts looking around again. The woman appears to be engaged in a serious conversation with her husband. She nods her head attentively and occasionally gives a response. Her attention drifts back and forth from her husband then to her son. She stokes the boys head, smiles and turns his head so that he stops staring at a little baby and its mother around the corner.

After waiting for a few minutes the man leaves the room. The boy leans fondly on his mother and starts to speak. Often he raises his finger to point out things but his mother holds his hand and smiles. She whispers something in his ears as she shakes her head. She appears to be communicating her disapproval based on her gestures and facial expression. He boy makes a face and chuckles. His father returns and the mood becomes tenser. He boy sits upright playing with his hands.


The child speaks more frequently to the mother than to the father.

The child appears to have a closer relationship with the mother than with the father. When the father left the room the child appeared more relaxed. He even initiated a conversation with his mother. Occasionally as he spoke he pointed out things in the environment, although his mother cautioned him against it. When the boy was cautioned by his mother he did not appear threatened. In stead he smiled and maintained his jovial mood. His mother also appeared to pay attention to him. She would stoke his head as she conversed with her husband.

As soon as the father returned he boy become tense, sat up right and kept to himself. Earlier on in the observation the father had signaled the boy to sit still. The boy had responded swiftly without any hesitation and seemed rather tense. The father appears to be disciplinarian. The manner in which his spouse gave him her attention also asserts his role as head of the family.

This appears to be a decent inner city family that is keen on instilling morals in their son. The father appears to adopt a stern and direct form of disciplining or correcting. This is evident in the way he signals the child to sit upright. He keeps a straight face and maintains direct eye contact. The boy seems to be more withdrawn when relating to his father. They do not even exchange a word or glances.


The exercise is time consuming. It takes a lot of patience to observe, take notes and then analyze the findings.

Alteration of behavior by subjects when they become aware that they are been observed is another challenge. Therefore the researcher needs to be very cautious so as not to alert the subject. The researcher should record his findings without intervening in the situation.

It is a challenge to avoid experimental bias when observing the inner city families. It is difficult to remain object without allowing personal predispositions or stereotypes to cloud ones judgment.


Naturalistic observation of children and their families in a health care facility is an effective method of carrying out a research. This technique can assist in gathering data and gaining insight more than other research methods such as structured interviews and quantitative methods. Human factors are a challenge in any form of observational research.


George A. Miller (1983). The Principles of Psychology: with introduction.

London: Harvard University Press.

Brain, Christine. (2002). Advanced psychology: applications, issues and perspectives.

Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes.


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