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Tavistock method of observation is a research technique that researchers can use to learn about the cognitive and emotional development of infants. This technique offers researchers with opportunities to uncover dynamics of unconscious mental processes among infants and their families. The Tavistock method has grown to become a salient tool that researchers use to study infants with a goal of understanding their responses through sight and sound. Esther Bick developed the Tavistock method of observation that has become one of the most-used methods in the observation of infants (Bick & Harris 2011). This technique is also suitable for training of child psychotherapists. Bick introduced this method of training of child psychotherapist because it could provide the intimacy required between observers and the infant’s family. This technique provides intimacy between observers and families of infants’ reinforcing a relation where they can observe both cognitive and emotional development of infants. The Tavistock method entails a researcher observing an infant, recording the results later in a notebook and sharing observations with other researchers in a seminar group. The focus of the Tavistock method is to carry out observation through immersing oneself into an observation process. Often, a researcher will visit the home of the baby before her birth. As a trainee in child psychotherapist, the observer will conduct visits to the infant’s home once a week for a period of two years. This length of the visit is done when observers are undertaking training in child psychotherapy, but the time may be shortened if observations are done for other reasons other than training. This can be a case where a researcher is studying the development of infants, but not for training purposes. Despite the difference in length of time spent during the observation period, researchers or trainees make these visits for the purpose of observing infants as they interact with their families (Frank2011).
The Tavistock method of observation stands out because it allows researchers and student to interact closely with children as well again direct contact (Lefevre 2010). When used for research, this method gives researchers the chance to observe infants in their setting such as home, and watch them as they grow. Researchers can observe infants in a home, where they interact with the sibling, and as a result, help in finding out more about how relationships emerge as well as develop as the infant grows up. More significantly, this technique equips researchers with the skills of focusing their attention on an infant and, at the same time, engaged in other observations, relevant to their study of interest (Sansone 2007).The Tavistock method of observation requires an observer to focus on the observation of events taking place within a given scope of study. During an observation, the observer plays an essential role of capturing data through hearing and looking at reactions, as well as responses from the infant. During an observation, the researcher must take the position of an observer, and refrain from being part of any active event (Reason & Bradbury 2002).Nonetheless; the observers can also interact with the infant more closely as they build a relationship between one another. In addition, the observer becomes a friend of the family often visiting them during the observation periods. The resulting relationship builds an environment where the observer can carry out observations with ease. However, the observers should not lose their position as observers by forming friendship that can influence the observation process. With mental and emotional engagements, the researcher can events that elucidate vital behavior that can give more meaning in the study. This attributes makes the observer not to be part of the experiences, but yet, participant observing the event as they occur. When a researcher carries out this role well, the observations, he will make, are more likely to be without neither bias nor negative influence. Through immersion of oneself in the observation process, observers view all interactions that transpire during the observation process, as there is little influence from their thought or actions they do not relate easily to the study (MacLeod-Brudenell 2004).
When using this method, an observer’s role is more than looking at the events as they unfold before him. Instead, the observer is receptive to the emotional experiences, taking place between the infant that the family. Equally, the observer’s role is to observe the emotion experiences and ascribe meaning to them. This is a critical role the observer must play and do it with balance in order to sustain the emotional and physical experience that unfolds before him. Many times, a researcher may rely on the emotional transactions that take place between him and the family of the infant. These unconscious transactions give more meaning to the experiences than the infant produces during his or her interaction with the family. In order to achieve meaningful observation, the researcher is concerned with the attention, they gives to the events, unfolding before him. The sensitivity and attention the observer wields during the observation process forms the kernel of this technique. With lack of a mechanical instrument, necessary for making records, the level of observers’ sensitivity and attention to the details play significant part of the techniques’ success in studying infants (Arnold 2010; Southall & Martin 2010).Frequent visits and observation of infants is a significant feature of Tavistock observations method. When an observer such as a social worker identifies a home or an institution with infant to study, he always makes periodic visits that are consistent. The observer achieves consistency by making visits in the same day of the week. This approach has a valuable role of ensuring that the observers get to know the relationship between infants and their families. With little evidence being available in such interactions, having frequent visits gives observers the chance to determine patterns of behavior that may not be visible in a couple of visits. Primary, the frequent visits to the setting of the infant help observers to gain a concrete understanding from daily observations that help build a picture about an infant. With a given picture or trend that observation depicts, it is possible to build a given understanding about the relationship between the infant and family. These are useful in drawing crucial insight into the working of the mind and feelings that accompany interactions between the infant, an observer, and the family (Matton & Hinshaw 2003).
During the process of observation, psychoanalytic therapists acting as observers do not record the observation that they feel and see. Rather, they refrain from taking any forms of records. Instead, they spend this time observing the interaction attentively and looking for any manifestation of mental or physical processes. Despite the lack of recording during the observation period, observers must record as much as they can remember, of what transpired during the observation process. When recording the events that took place during the observation, the observers must note down as much information as possible in form of a narrative. An observer will write down his observations a short time after making them in his visits. The written observation provides an observer the opportunity to record all accounts that transpired during the visit (Catty 2009). These observations are in their raw states and free from the influence of preconceptions. When recording observations, an observer ensures that his focus remain on noting down the events as here collects them. Regardless of their sequence, the aim of this stage is to capture events that can be analyzed through discussions and seminars that follow this stage. Seminars form a critical phase of the Tavistock observation method because it provides a critical space for reflection on the results of the observations. When observers engage themselves in various studies, holding seminars, and exchanging data from observations is a necessary part of learning. More specifically, observers, taking part in seminars, are able to glean from the reflection and analyze the data that occur as co-observers reflect on their observations. During observations, observers may be overwhelmed by what they see and feel. However, seminars can help them distinguish between various sources of feelings, not to mention managing many experiences from the observation process. With the help of a seminar group, an observer can gain a deeper understanding of his observations, and, at the same time, share his experiences and anxiety during the exercise, thereby, achieving containment (Edwards et al., 2006).
Critique of the Tavistock observation method
There is no doubt Tavistock observation method is different from other models that researchers used to observe infant. Whereas some observation processes make use of systematic scoring techniques, the Tavistock method rests on recording of observations after an observer witness their occurrence. Most important, this method rests on the use of what observers feel and see in their process of making observations. Conversely, the method does provide an observer with the chance of having the infant or family invoke feelings in him. These attributes draw a distinction between the Tavistock methods from other techniques (Rustin 2009).The specifics of the Tavistock method makes a difference from the other techniques. First, some techniques using observation alongside some predefined scorecards that help make insight into the behaviors of infants. However, the Tavistock method strays from this paradigm in a significant way (Wilfried, Margit, & Antonia 2010).Rather, than using a scorecard, an observer is often attentive to note any feeling of physical responses he sees between the family and the infant. Reflecting on this outcome by addressing one’s contribution to the observation is the central attention of the Tavistock method. Another difference emanates from the recording process. In some observation techniques, observers often record what they see happening. However, this technique entails recording of behavior’s that infant display, as well as those that infant failed in the project. Indeed, having to interact with infants and their family more closely during observation periods presents a thrilling way of learning how relationships develop.
When carrying out an observation, using this method, the process of observation presents an ethical dilemma. When carrying out an observation, an observer interacts closely with the infant and their families at their home. In the process, the observer may watch the mother breast feed the child or give them a bath. This observation, the observer risks intruding into the infant, as well as the family. However, observing the infant and their families during an observation depicts the observers as intruders. In some cases, the families may find observers in their home to cause stress. Indeed, family members may find it uneasy to have observers at their homes because of privacy issue among other concerns. However, the observation process allows essential learning to take place, as observers learn about the cognitive and physical reaction of infant. The findings from these processes are far much crucial in understanding the relationship between infants and family, and this negates any feeling of ethical violations (Coady 2001). In addition, this method presents an opportunity for improvement. Despite the ethical challenge of observer causing stress to an infant or family member, observers have an imperative role of gathering critical information about infant development. This allows observers to participate in gathering of feelings and other physical responses from the interaction between the infant and the family.
The Tavistock method of observation presents a thin line that observers keep with. There are cases that might motivate observers to refrain from seeing too much. This can be the case, when an observer is concerned with limiting his scope of observation in order to enhance any privacy requirement. Despite this process, observers still yearn for opportunities, where they can observe and report on various interactions even those that have negative impacts. This means that observers can still get access to more information that may affect the privacy of the subjects. This dilemma may be resolved, using ethical approaches like using informed consents and keeping observation as confidential as possibility (Abbott & Langston 2004).
Subjectivity is another challenge that can affect the efficiency of this technique. Where observers are inclined towards subjectivity, there are chances that their feelings may affect their reflection process. When carrying out an observation, observers are likely to be influenced by the emotional reaction they experience during the process of observing infants and their families. During an observation, observer’s feelings are likely to shape the result of the process. While, subjectivity cannot be completely eliminated from the Tavistock method, seminar groups can help to reduce manifestation. Apart from the customers highlighting on the complex interactions and their meanings, this group can also help observers to identify and remove subjective tendencies. Because of this, results from the observation process are more likely to lack subjectivity and, thus, depict a clear picture that provides more holistic information about how infants interact and socializes with their family to yield meaningful behavioral experience.
The Tavistock method of observation presents a thin line that observers keep with. There are cases that might motivate observers to refrain from seeing too much. This can be the case, when an observer is concerned with limiting his scope of observation in order to enhance any privacy requirement. Despite this process, observers still yearn for opportunities, where they can observe and report on various interactions even those that have negative impacts. This means that observers can still get access to more information that may affect the privacy of the subjects. This dilemma may be resolved, using ethical approaches like informed consents and keeping observation as confidential as possibility (Abbott & Langston 2004).
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