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Centerpointe Research

Children as Experimental Subjects

BERLIN, GERMANY - AUGUST 22:  Day care workers...

At one point in time there were experimental studies in psychology where children were viewed as subjects.  Theories of child development were based on these.   Children need to be observed in their own environments, not in sterile laboratory rooms with strangers.  A lot of what children do is based on where they are and whom they are with.  When children are comfortable with their surroundings and the people there, their typical behavior is more likely to appear.  They must feel safe and secure before they start to explore and interact with each other or adults.  Also for young children, most child care environments contain kids of the same or close to the same age and  familiar adult females, usually not males.

It was said once upon a time that babies or young toddlers engaged in solitary play and did not get involved  in interactive play with other children.  If you observe children like these in their homes, at a close relative’s house where they often come to play, or in their accustomed daycare setting with familiar same age playmates, they will usually get involved in play with each other that seems to follow certain rules and also have reciprocal behaviors .   Also you, yourself, or the observer must not be a stranger to the children.  This makes it difficult to conduct scientific studies with an impartial observer in a controlled environment.  As a partial observer of my grandchildren in a familiar environment where they are playing with children they  play with all the time, I have seen interactive play among children as young as one year  and eighteen months of age.   In fact, all three when together usually play in the same place {no matter how much room they have to play in) and  with the same things (no matter how much they have to play with).  One child does something and the other children do it too. Sometimes there seems to be a pattern of behavior.

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