EDU550 Observation Research


Topic: Socioemotional development in children aged between 3 to 7 years old.

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1.0 Introduction

We, ED220 B.Ed TESL students, were assigned to conduct an observational research based on topic of development by Mr. Rizal, our lecturer for EDU550 Educational Psychology, on August 1st, 2008. The assignment required us to observe a specific behavioral change and apply the theory that we have learned to justify the behaviour.  We were given three options of development type that we would like to conduct; biological, socioemotional and cognitive development.

1.1 Background

The type of development that we explored is socioemotional development in children aged between 3 to 7 years old. Specifically, it is the aggressive behaviour of the children on their peers that becomes the focus of the development that we are delving into. This is to identify the level of aggressiveness of children at this age towards other children.

The observation was carried out in an indoor playground of McDonald restaurant, Section 2, Shah Alam. It was respectively done 3 times on the 9, 11 and 16 August 2008 at night between 9.30 PM to 11.30 PM for about 20 minutes to one hour for every session. The subject of our observation was children ranging from 4 to 6 years old who were playing in the playground.

1.2 Purpose

The purpose of the research is to investigate the level of children’s aggressiveness on their peers in playground. Children start to interact with their peers as they reach certain particular age, in which they begin to develop and exhibit their behaviours on their peers in the interaction. Thus, children’s behaviours, whether they are aggressive or friendly, can be identified and the factors affecting children’s behaviour on their peers will be able to be figured out. Recommendations on how to curb children’s aggressiveness and enhance their positive behaviors on peers can be made based on the outcome of the research.

1.3 Research Question

Our research question is based on the purpose of our observational research regarding to the level of aggressiveness that children manifest in the playground to their peers. Thus, our research question is ‘Do children behave aggressively on peers in the playground?’ The question is constructed in such way as to identify whether the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The answer that will be elicited from the behaviour observed will provide the sufficient data needed for the finding.

2.0 Literature Review

According to Papalia, Olds & Feldman (2006), aggression emerges mostly during social play. Between age 2 and 5, children commonly struggle over toys and control of space and when they are able to express themselves verbally, they tend to shift from physical aggression to verbal aggression. This indicates that aggression is an intricate facet of children that cannot be averted as it evolves in parallel with the children’s development.

However, it is controversially arguable since children as early as 2 years old are claimed to naturally have prosocial behaviour, a voluntary activity intended to benefit another which is a total opposite of aggression. A longitudinal study of Coplan et Al (2004) on 32 of 4 and 5-year-old children showed that prosocial personality or disposition emerged clearly and remain constant, as cited by Papalia, Olds and Feldman (2006).

The strength of the study is the application of longitudinal study which focuses on the development of the same individual over a period of time, but the weakness is the extrapolation of the data as the focus of research is narrowed to 32 individuals only.  The contradiction between the theory and the study has spurred us to conduct a research to identify children’s level of aggressiveness on their peers. We purposely choose playground as our observation place since it is one of the most common places of social play among children that they interact with other children.

The question that prevails is whether the children behave aggressively or they behave helpfully and affectively on their peers. Thus, our research question is ‘Do children behave aggressively in the playground? We weigh the aggressive behaviours against affective behaviours since the theory developed by Papalia, Olds & Feldman (2006) highlights aggression among children.

3.0 Methodology

3.1 Sampling

Our subject is children of 4 to 6 years old whom are playing in the playground. The presence of other children in the playground causes each child to interact with each other. The interaction between the children will reveal their behaviour in interacting with their peers. In the behaviour, the level of aggressiveness is the focus of the research as to identify whether children behave aggressively on their peers in playground.

3.2 Selection of Age

The selection of age is based on the appropriate development of the children achieved by this stage. Since the observation is to identify whether children bully their peers in the playground or not, the interaction between the children is emphasized in order to delve into their level of aggressiveness on their peers. At this age, children start to interact with other children actively even without prior encounter. Domblewski & Kaufmann (1990) described that by the age of 4, children start to play with one child at one time. As they reach the age of 5, they are keen to play with a few friends and as they reach the age of 6, they quite readily and easily enter into play which is involving several friends.

3.3 Selection of Place

The observation focuses on playground since it is a place for children to come and play with other children. Thus, it is the most appropriate place to observe children’s behaviours on their peers. According to Santrock (2005), play increases the probability that children will converse and interact with each other. During this interaction, children practice the roles they will assume later in life. It is crucially vital to note that at this age, children start to learn their responsibility since the adults expect children to be responsible.

3.4 Selection of Type of Observation

We decided to utilize structured observation as our methodology in our observational research. A structured observation is very systematic and it enables researchers to generate numerical data from the observation (Cohen, Manion and Morrison, 2000, pg 306). We selected instantaneous sampling which required us to note down what we observed at standard intervals of time on a fixed and structured schedule (please refer to appendices). However, there is no specific time for us to conduct the observation since the observation is a non-naturalistic observation which confines our temporal factor on how long the subject is in the playground. The main emphasis is on children’s behaviour towards their peers without considering how long it takes for them to play together. However, we uphold the occurrence of critical accidents that the reliability of consistency in observations is not always necessary. A surprising behaviour could be manifested, which marks the presence of certain unrevealed qualities of the subject.

4.0 Findings and Discussion

Three observations were conducted on three separate nights. The findings from the observation, as well as the discussion of the findings are stated below.

4.1 The First Observation

The observation was conducted at August 9th, 2008 roughly between 10:15 PM to 11.15 PM at McDonald’s indoor playground. The subject we selected is a boy who was about 5 years old. Although the parents of the subject were present in the playground to supervise him, they did not interfere with the child’s activity.

During the first 10 minutes, the boy was laughing and was involved in a friendly verbal exchange with his peers. Screaming at one of the children was the only aggressive behavior exhibited by the subject. Approximately after 10 minutes, the event marked the arrival of new peers which intensified the subject’s excitement as he and his peers spent roughly about 8 minutes running around excitedly. The subject was still involved in friendly verbal exchange and laughing with other children. When the new peers left the playground, the subject still played, talked and laughed with the already existing peers. In fact, the subject exhibited caring attitude and even shared a play’s object with other children up until the 40th minutes. The next 20 minutes was spent by playing, talking, and laughing with other children. Throughout the play, the parents of the children were present to monitor their children.

4.2 The Second Observation

The second observation was conducted on August 14th, 2008 roughly from 9.45 PM to 10.25 P.M at McDonald’s indoor playground. The subject was a girl who was about 6 years old. During the first 10 minutes, the subject was playing and laughing with other children. After the 10 minutes, the subject started to talk with other children; she also made several friendly physical contacts and exhibited caring attitude on other children such as tapping their back gently. However, an accidental event occurred in the mid of 30 minutes when two adults came and dispensed ice-creams to the other children but not the subject. The subject seemed to withdraw herself from other children and watched them eating their ice-cream, and later retreated from the playground and went to see her parent who was sitting nearby. The subject played with her younger brother who was a toddler, talked to her mother for a while. Roughly about 10 minutes later, the subject returned to the playground but she did not mingle with other children. The subject then went back with her parent.

4.3 The Third Observation

The third observation was conducted on August 16th, 2008 roughly from 10.30 PM to 10.50 PM at McDonald’s indoor playground. The subject that we selected is a girl of about 4 years old. During the first 10 minutes, the girl was playing, laughing and talking with other children. At the same time, the subject also manifested some aggressiveness as she pulled the hair of other girls for a few times. After the 10 minutes, the subject kept playing and laughing with other children. When she hurt herself during the play, she cried and went to see her parents, who then brought her home.

4.4 The Application of Theory

We decided to choose psychosocial development theory developed by Erik Erikson (1902 – 1994) to be applied to our data as it concerns about the socio-emotional development of children. According to theory of psychosocial development of Erik Erikson (1968), children aged from 3 to 6 are categorized under the third psychosocial stage, initiative vs. guilt (as cited from “Psychosocial Development”, 2008), ‘If the children manage to develop a sense of responsibility, their initiative increases and if not, they develop a sense of guilt’. Domblewski & Kaufmann (1990) defines ‘Initiative’ as the energy and self-reliance to start something on one’s own and ‘Guilt’ is self-blame.

4.4.1 Guilt as a Source of Aggressiveness

In accordance to Bee and Boyd (2004), aggressive behaviour may be derived from guilt for someone’s inability to achieve his or her desired goals. They feel frustrated and may engage in behaviours that seem aggressive, ruthless, and overly assertive such as throwing objects, hitting, or yelling (Psychosocial Development, 2008, 1.3). However, in our observation of the playground, the structure is designed and constructed to fit children’s physical ability as it is a place for children to play. The children are also encouraged to be involved in social play with the presence of their parents who monitor them throughout the play. These actually prevent the children’s development of guilt as they manage to attain their desired goal.

During our observation, one of the subjects fell down from the play structure that she was trying to climb, and she was crying in pain. However, when she went to confide in her parents who comforted her, she became composed and returned to the playground. This scenario actually showed that when the subject failed to attain the desired goals (wanting to climb the play structure) which impaired her initiatives, she did not exhibit aggressiveness on other children who managed to climb it. Nevertheless, the guilt is crucial to deter the children from taking bad initiatives since climbing the structure is dangerous and risky. According to Bee and Boyd (2004), children in this stage require some sense of guilt in order to guide their self-control and a healthy conscience (as cited from “Psychosocial Development”, 2008).

4.4.2 Initiative as a Prevention of Aggressiveness and a Source of Affection

At this stage, the parents have already expected their children to fulfill some responsibility. If children manage to take these responsibilities, they develop their initiatives more. In the playground, the parents give their children some room for freedom to play in the playground but simultaneously provide supervision on them by being present nearby the playground. The parents sometimes tell the children to deter from doing certain acts but they mostly do not interfere with their children’s activity since it is not harmful. Boyum and Parke (1995) assert that children whose parents clearly communicate disapproval as well as strong positive feelings are more prosocial, less aggressive and more liked (as cited from A Child’s World, 2006).

The authoritative parenting style adopted by the parents enables the children to take their own initiatives which leads to their ability to take the responsibility given by the parents. Definitely, one of the expectations given by the parents is not to execute any harmful or immoral activity on other children and to behave more positively on others. This is supported by Domblewski & Kaufmann (1990) that “at the age of 4 to 6, children often comfort brother, sisters and friends who are experiencing emotional distress both verbally and nonverbally such as hugging, patting on the back, friendly touch of hand and even sharing toys, food and space. Children are also ready for an exchange of words and gestures of love and affection.” This is evident as the behaviours manifested by the subjects are mostly positive, which consist of playing, laughing, friendly talk and even sharing a toy. They rarely do any harms or even slight aggressive manner as they prefer to establish positive relationship with others.

4.5 Low Level of Aggressiveness

The subjects that we observed manifested very little aggressiveness on other children in the playground. The only aggressiveness that they showed was screaming and pulling hair which both occurred once. In fact, most of their behaviors stood in contrast with aggressiveness. They seem to emanate friendliness and affection on other children. They enjoyed talking, laughing, playing with other children and all the subjects also exhibited caring attitude and shared objects with their peers. Thus, based from the observation, it is proven that children do not behave aggressively on their peers in playground. It indicates their development of initiatives.

4.6 Factors of Children’s Development of Initiatives

Children are inclined to be more loving and friendly on their peers than being aggressive in the playground, which shows their development of initiatives. Below are some notable factors, as follow:

4.6.1 Independence

Children gain initiatives when their parents allow them some freedom and opportunity to initiate motor play, such as running, bike riding, sledding, and skating (Santrock, 2005). The parents did not forbid the children from playing and frolicking around in the playground and they were present nearby to watch their children. This indicated that the parents still put some control on their children’s behaviour in spite of the freedom that they gave to them.

According to Baumrind (1996), parents who practiced such authoritative parenting styles would culminate in their children behaving in socially competent ways; self-reliant, delay gratification, high self-esteem and get along with peers (as cited from Santrock, 2008) because the parents set reasonable expectation and viable standard which allowed their children to fulfill the responsibility within their limits and choice. Thus, the children were inclined to develop initiative instead of guilt as they could take the responsibility given by parents. The children exhibited no or less aggressiveness in the playground since they had been internalized with good communication skills which enabled them to interact well with other peers.

4.6.2 Self-control

Children have developed self-control which enables them to monitor their own behaviour regardless of the supervision of adults or not. This allows them to develop their initiatives more. Erikson (1982) asserts that there are two parts in the children; the parts that remain a child, full of exuberant desire to try new things and test new powers, and the part that is becoming an adult, constantly examining the propriety of motives and actions. Children who learn how to regulate these opposing drives develop the virtue of purpose, the courage to envision and pursue goals without being unduly inhibited by guilt or fear of punishment (as cited from Papalia, Olds & Feldman). When the children wanted to play run and chase among them in the playground, they carried on with their idea of playing it since they were eager to try a new activity they consider fun. However, they knew their limits that they could not hurl stones on the person that they were running from because it is harmful and wrong. As a result, they were having fun and nobody cried or felt upset due to the absence of aggressiveness. Their self-control led to the success of their initiatives as they knew their limits in spite of what they wanted to achieve. They actually gained positive outcomes from their initiatives since their action was approved and they obtained what they desired.

The emergence of self-control could be indicated by children’s development of conscience. According to Santrock (2005), the great governor of initiatives is conscience; children feel afraid of being found out and start to hear the inner-voice of self-observation, self-guidance and self-punishment. At this age, children have retained a sense of conscience which prevents them from doing any harm to others or engage in any immoral activities. This further reasserts their control of their own behaviours. Therefore, children do not exert aggressiveness on other children but to exhibit friendliness and affection.

4.6.3 Sense of Accomplishment

During this stage, a child learns to take initiative and prepare him or herself towards roles of leadership and goal achievement (as cited from Psychosocial Development, 2008). If they manage to achieve the desired outcomes of their initiatives, their initiatives will intensify but if they don’t, their guilt will kindle. For example, when the children want to climb the gliding play from the ground to the top instead of gliding themselves downwards, it has become their goal. If they manage to do it, they have actually achieved their goal which increases their initiatives. However, if they fall while climbing the gliding play, they will develop guilt since they have failed to attain their goal.

It is crucially vital for children to be able to accomplish their goal in order to assist them in developing their initiatives and gain benefits from it. Thus, children should be given sufficient assistance and supports from the adults especially parents to enable them achieving their goals.  McDevitt and Ormrod (2002) claim that by observing his or her own accomplishments and/or through the development of self-efficacy, the child internalizes a sense of satisfaction that is necessary for maintaining initiative (as cited from “Social Psychoanalysis Development”, 2008)

5.0 Recommendation

Parents have to allow their children some freedom in what they want to achieve in spite of supervision and control. Parents are the closest agent of socialization in shaping children’s socio-emotional development consists of relationship with others’ emotion and personality. In playground, supervision of parents is essential as to monitor the children throughout the play.

6.0 Conclusion

Children are the beginning of human phase in the world. They play an essential role in the further development of humans. As children grow, they need the nurture from their surroundings especially parents to help their development. Locke (1700s) proposes that children are like ‘blank tablet’, childhood experiences are important in determining adult characteristics (as cited from Domblewski & Kaufmann, 1990).

They need both initiatives and guilt as it carries significance to the development of the children. Initiatives are vital as to encourage the children to continue with positive behaviour while guilt is essential since it prevents certain negative behaviour from emergence. A child will successfully pass through this stage of development if he or she is not being overwhelmed by inevitable failures. The child develops a good balance between taking initiatives and knowing the social and other limits of what can be done (Domblewski & Kaufmann, 1990).


Cohen, L., Manion, L. & Morrison, K. (2000): Research Method in Education. London, England and New York, USA: RoutledgeFalmer.

Domblewski, C., & Kaufmann, L. (Eds.). (1990). Child Development: Roles, Responsibilities, Resources. USA: Prentice Hall.

Papalia, D.E., Olds, S.W. & Feldman, R. D. (2006). A Child’s World: Infancy Through Adolescence. New York City, USA: The McGraw Hill.

Santrock, John W. (2005). Children (8th Edition). New York City, USA: The McGraw Hill.

Santrock, John W. (2005). Education Psychology (3rd Edition). Singapore: The McGraw- Hill Education (Asia).


One thought on “EDU550 Observation Research

  1. Mdm Natasya says:

    Am proud that my student ever think of this brilliant idea!

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