Reflection on Child and Adult Observation

  • 17 Pages
  • Published On: 29-11-2023

Observation is a vital role in social work and enable the observer to learn more about children and this includes stepping back and watching them. Childcare workers often watch children in their care to know them better and evaluate their development and reassure that everything is alright and alert of any child problems through checking typical development theories.

This paper will critically evaluate my observation role and link adult and child focused observations to major life perspectives and reflective practice. While drawing on human growth and development theories, I will examine major theoretical models and critically relate to my observation (Attachment, Erikson psychosocial model and Piaget’s cognitive). I will start by providing a description of adult and children observation and the setting of the observation. I will also link the observation to normal adult and child development and also suggest factors that can interfere with ‘normal’ development of child. Throughout the paper, I will also explore and reflect the process of undertaking the observation. Besides, while conducting the observation, I will maintaining confidentiality as per the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), (2012). Therefore, child names will be under the pseudonym of A and B while the adult is Ben. Lastly, I will also explore how observations promoted my development of reflective practice via linking to Knowledge and Skills Statements (KSS) and Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) for children and adults.

Observation of the Young Child

Young child observation enables social workers to get an insight into child development. Additionally, observation method allows social workers to develop skills that would usually be difficult to learn. Some of the skills learned include taking notes in observation which is vital in a professional social work role (O'Brien, 2020). The study also reveals that observation is among the foundational skills developed in social work, which is closely linked to social worker’s role in decision making and judgments on issues like gender, race, and sexuality. Therefore, all social workers need to develop observation skills. Therefore, child observation is vital to help an individual develop the needed skills (PCF7).

My task included observation of a child K, who is three years old- appendix 1. He lives with his mother, father and sister (B), who is aged 6. From the observation, I was able to keenly observe the child and his development while applying highest order of professionalism (PCF, KSS 10 & PCF 2). The observation was conducted using Tavistock model of observation.

K has a mother, a father, and a sister (B) aged 6. The child mum is a work colleague who lives opposite my working place with her family. I explained to her about the observation. The child often lives with a Nan while his mother is at work. Her mother finishes her shift at 3 pm and collects K from Nan. Therefore, during the observation day, I reached K's home at 6 pm as agreed. After knocking on the door, I could hear k shouting out for his mum and trying to put words together. K's father let me in while their mother was preparing dinner. His sister B recognized me very well since she had recognized me from the store where she always comes to visit with her mum. However, K acted as if I was a total stranger. His sister said 'Hello' and K copied B, his sister, by waving his hand and said 'hello' to me. While B seemed to be welcoming, K stood one foot away, staring at me and amazingly nodding in agreement to whatever his sister B was saying. I almost laugh because l knew that K has never met me before. During the first time of the observation, K was busy watching one of his favorite children's programs and trying to imitate the program song and rocking his body both ways; as he sat down on the floor and waving his both hands in the air, K is a bit shy. After noticing my presence, he paused. I tried not to look straight at him. Though his dad sat close to him, I guess he would have run out of the living room if none of his parents and sister were present. When his mum came, he walked straight to her and climbed up her mum's lap. From this point, I could link her closeness to his parents with the development of secure attachment. However, I also faced the challenge of the "feeling of invading" children and family privacy. However, I observed that everyone was okay with the observation with time, thus reducing my anxiety.

The child's behavior to play with his mother can be explained by the attachment theory. The theory explains the link between child and parent and its influences on subsequent child development. John Bowlby developed the theory in 1958. The approach reveals that the contact between parent or caregiver and child creates secure attachment of children. The secure attachment makes the child comforted in the parent or caregiver's presence and makes them prefer parents to strangers (Capaldo & Perrella, 2018). The study reveals that secure attachment is vital to a child since it enables the child to develop stronger self-reliance and self-esteem during their growth. Also, children with secure attachment they become more independent, have a successful social relationship, and perform better in education (Gazzillo et al., 2020). More importantly, they experience less depression and anxiety, which is vital for mental development. Therefore secure attachment is essential. Also, the child expressed anxiety when I arrived. The attachment theory reveals that a child expresses stranger anxiety in response to the arrival of a stranger. Moreover, separation anxiety occurs when a child is separated from the caregiver. On the other hand, social referencing is the degree that child looks at caregiver to check how they should respond to something new (Gazzillo et al., 2020). However, in the observation, the child revealed stranger anxiety making her pose his song imitation when X notices my presence while watching his program.

Also, I observed that K is a very active child and full of energy. After finishing his milk, he threw the empty bottle aside and started yawning, and fell asleep. Jean Piaget's model of cognitive development suggest that a child moves via four mental development stages. These phases includes sensorimotor stage, concrete operational, preoperational stage and formal operational stage (Goertzel et al., 2014). At the Preoperational Stage, which occurs between the age of two and seven years, a child starts to think symbolically and learn to use pictures and words to represent items. Goertzel et al. (2014) state that at this stage of development, a child learns through pretend play through logic and taking other people point view. For example, in the observation, the child is still struggling with logic in that after drinking the milk, he threw the empty bottle aside and started yawning, and fell asleep. An adult might see the action of throwing a bottle as illogic, though to K, there might be nothing wrong with that. Also, from the observation, I discovered that K was very playful, especially while with his sister. According to Milteer et al. (2012), play is vital to children since it allows them to be creative while developing their imagination, physical, dexterity, emotional and cognitive strength. It is also vital for mental development.

Observation of the Adult

The observation took place at the local electronic store. Inside the store, there are various stations set up for people to try out different video games before purchasing them. The man under observation (Ben- not real name) was in his sixties. He was playing the video game with his grandson. Ben and grandson were laughing joyfully as the two enjoy the game. The child seemed to win even though the old man was always narrating his experience while he was a driver. Later, ben purchased the game, and both went home. According to Erikson's 8 Stages of Psychosocial Development, individuals in the '60s enter the Integrity vs. Despair stage of development. This stage is known as late adulthood. According to the theory, individuals like to reflect on their lives and feel a sense of satisfaction or failure (Orenstein & Lewis, 2020). Similarly, ben likes narrating his driving experience, which creates a sense of satisfaction. Also, ben is proud of his accomplishment, which Erickson refers to as integrity. He has no regret to earlier life and like retelling his life to his grandson. Similarly, the act of planning to play video games other than engaging with the community can be explained by the disengagement theory. According to Akpovire (2017), as people age, there is a normal tendency to withdraw from the community since it relieves them of roles and responsibilities. Purchasing the video game means that ben will take more time with his grandson, making him withdrawn from the community.

Discussion and Analysis

According to Ferguson (2018), child observation enables social workers to be responsive rather than intrusive through listening and watching (PCF 1). Similarly, participating in an observation raises awareness and sharpens understanding of an individual on child development. The study also reveals that observation is critical since it enables individuals to know how to monitor feelings and reactions (p.415) (PCF5, PCF7. From my observation, I also realized that the process was vital since it enhanced my skills and helped me understand how to build a relationship with children. Also, at first, K has stranger anxiety; therefore, the experience was critical for me to learn how to form and maintain relationships, thus helping me understand my strength and weakness in social relationships.

From the observation experiment, I gained valuable skills that are vital in my whole social work career. For instance, K was new to me; therefore, I learned how relationships are structured and maintained (KSS11; PCF9). Zepke (2018) states that making a relationship and maintaining it is very challenging since they need a lot of attention and care for them to grow into something healthy and long-lasting. On the other hand, studies show that relationship is the most critical aspect of social work since it involves creating healthy relationships with families and providing opportunities for them to change (PCF7; KSS7). The observation offered me a chance to focus on the resilience, vulnerability, and relative powerlessness of children in a home setting and their attachment with their caregivers. Therefore I gained valuable skills and knowledge to conduct an observation in various settings in my profession since I learned to be keen on details. More importantly, I discovered and have a deeper understanding of how children play, communicate and engage with adults and develop (Van Hook, 2019).

Though at the beginning of the observation, I was anxious, as the observation progressed, I began to feel happy while watching how children behave. Also, I was excited to learn that, unlike my family, I learned that children were more interactive with their parents in the family, thus creating more strong attachment. Other than great learning, I realized that observation was a challenging practice since it felt intrusive. In most cases, especially when observing the child, I felt very anxious. I felt guilty while observing the child while asleep while watching his favorite television program and other activities. I felt very uneasy following the child as I thought I was invading his privacy. However, having read a book by Van Hook et al. (2019), I am aware that it is common for students to feel anxiety while undertaking child observations, and it is also common for them to think that they are invading the privacy of someone’s home. However, I also understand that social workers have to visit client's homes (PCF7), and in case of distraction, they may miss out on information vital to them. However, I did not feel intimidated by the parents; thus, I did not lose any essential information on the child observation. Hook et al. (2019) states that social workers must have the confidence to deal with their uncomfortable thoughts of intruding on privacy for them to be effective in their career (PCF7, KSS3; KSS6.

From the observation, I developed effective observation skills, including utilizing all my five senses to recognize, analyze and recall my surroundings. These skills will enable me to reflect and recognize emotions and preconceptions that may be affecting my judgment and assessment of a family (PCF 2; KSS8). Also, I realized that my empathy, communication, conflict, commitment, and love ability were very excellent from the observation. According to Bhuyan et al. (2017), equality and diversity in social work are critical and include serving everyone regardless of their race, age, sexual orientation, believe and disability. I am aware that United Kingdom is a diverse state which need social workers to acknowledge diversity. Therefore, in the future, I will serve everyone irrespective of their varying backgrounds, religion, ethnicities, and age and aim to improve people's lives (PCF3).

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Child observation is a very critical experiment in social work studies. It helps one to develop the necessary skills which are needed in daily practice. Theories like Erikson's psychosocial theory and Piaget's cognitive theory play great role in social work practice and observation. The Tavistock observation model has helped me interact with the family and kid while maintining professionalism and non-interventionist or unobtrusive perspective. However, observation is challenging since, initially, individuals feel intruding on other people's privacy. However, with time the feeling of invading people's privacy disappears. However, I discovered that the observation allowed me to reflect and explore my feelings. From my observation, I developed my judgment and assessment skills which are valuable skills in social work. Though child observation is vital to a social worker, I have also to consider diversity.

Dig deeper into Reflecting on the Past, Shaping the Future with our selection of articles.


Bhuyan, R., Bejan, R. and Jeyapal, D., 2017. Social workers’ perspectives on social justice in social work education: When mainstreaming social justice masks structural inequalities. Social Work Education, 36(4), pp.373-390.

Capaldo, M. and Perrella, R., 2018. Child maltreatment: an attachment theory perspective. Mediterranean Journal of Clinical Psychology, 6(1).

Gazzillo, F., Dazzi, N., De Luca, E., Rodomonti, M. and Silberschatz, G., 2020. Attachment disorganization and severe psychopathology: A possible dialogue between attachment theory and control-mastery theory. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 37(3), p.173.

Goertzel, B., Pennachin, C. and Geisweiller, N., 2014. Stages of cognitive development. In Engineering General Intelligence, Part 1 (pp. 225-244). Atlantis Press, Paris.

Ferguson, H., 2018. How social workers reflect in action and when and why they don’t: The possibilities and limits to reflective practice in social work. Social Work Education, 37(4), pp.415-427.

Milteer, R.M., Ginsburg, K.R. and Mulligan, D.A., 2012. The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bond: Focus on children in poverty. Pediatrics, 129(1), pp.e204-e213.

Orenstein, G.A. and Lewis, L., 2020. Eriksons stages of psychosocial development. StatPearls [Internet].

O'Brien, E.Z., 2020. Psychology, Human Growth and Development for Social Work: A Comprehensive Guide. Red Globe Press.

Van Hook, M.P., 2019. Social work practice with families: A resiliency-based approach. Oxford University Press, USA.

Zepke, N., 2018. Student engagement in neo-liberal times: what is missing?. Higher Education Research & Development, 37(2), pp.433-446.

Appendix 1
Child Observation: week 1 & 2.

Child – K, aged 3. Mother, Father and K sister called B, age 6.

Time of Observation: Wednesday the 14th at 6pm. K mum is my colleague at work, she lives opposite my working place with his partner and k sister age 6. We had reached an agreement for the observation to take place on this very day. K usually stays with the Nan, while mum at work. She finished her shift at 3pm and picked up K from Nan. I got there at 6pm as agreed.

As l knocked at the door, l could hear k shouting out for his mum, in a cracking voice, trying to put words together. K dad let me in the flat. While mum was busy preparing their dinner. His sister B recognised me very well, as she always come to the store with his mum, but K sees me as a stranger. As l walked in, through the hallway, his sister said ‘Hello’. K copied B his sister by waving his hand and said ‘hello’ to me.

Furthermore, K sister said Oh, l knew you from my mum place of work. K stood like one foot away, keep staring at me and amasingly nodding in agreement to whatever his sister B was saying. I almost laugh because, l knew that K has never met me before.

I received a warm welcome from the family. Before l sat down. I had asked to use their loo to ease myself. B led me to the toilet adjacent to their storeroom. Mum then send B upstairs to do her homework. By the time, l got back to the living room; K was busy watching one of his favourite children programs on the telly “Batman”, he was trying to imitate the song and rocking his body both ways, as he sat down on the floor and waving his both hands in the air, K is a bit shy. whenever he noticed; that l was sitting there, he will pause for a while as soon as he remembers my presence; even though, l had tried not to look straight at him. His dad sat opposite , busy checking his mobile phone messages. I guess, k would have run out of the living room, if none of his parent and sister were present.

Few minutes later, K mum came to the living room, K had walked straight to her and climb up her mum’s lap, he held on tight to his mother’s chest , as if he had missed her for so long. This reflects the bonding instinct of mother to child. After a while, K breathe deep down, as if he was contented with the bonding, he then slides down his mum’s lap and heads straight to the kitchen, making some crying sound for attention. By pointing at the sterilising unit, where his feeding bottle were kept; to tell mum that is hungry.

K ran back to the living room with his feeding bottle in his hand. K lied down on the rug , mum put a cushion on the floor, to support K’s head, to prevent him from choking. K was sucking on his bottle milk and looking at the telly at the same time. As he is enjoying his milk. He started flinging his both legs in the air in a gentle manner and uses his left hand to play with his belly button.

As he was already in his pyjamas, K is a very active child and full of energy; when he finished sucking his milk, l noticed that his both legs were down. He threw the empty bottle aside and few minutes later. He started yawning and fell asleep. Mum said it is time for him to go to bed. Mum then carried him in her shoulder and into his bedroom. l waited till mum came back to the living room and as l was escorted to the door and mum said goodbye. I will need to call her and arrange the next observation day and time.

Week 3 & 4

Child – K, aged 3. Mother, Father and K sister called B, age 6.

I arrived at 1pm on Saturday afternoon. K was in his bedroom and was joined by his sister B. He was hiding under the duvet when I entered the room. He peeped out from under the duvet and hid again when he saw me standing there watching. This continued for about 3mins, at which point K was joined under the duvet by his sister B, who said they were playing Hide and Seek. B came out from under the duvet and left the room. K looked out from under the duvet and saw me watching him. He covered his eyes with his right hand. Then laughing he got up and ran into the kitchen to meet his mother and hid behind her watching me as I came into the kitchen.

He said nothing for about 15mins, while mum talked to me. He watched me throughout. When I laughed at something his mother said, K said, "It's funny" and grinned briefly, but also furrowed his brow.

K sister went from the kitchen into the hallway, where there were framed photographs on a sideboard. B pointed to a picture of herself and told me that it was a picture of her when she was a baby. K then pointed to a picture of a new-born baby and said "K [his name]" (his mother told me what he had said). She told me she has been trying to get him to point out himself in the photo for ages and this was the first time he had done it. K then point to a picture of his sister and said "B [sister's name]". He followed his sister into the living room. I joined them in the living room and sat on a chair by the window. Mother stayed in the kitchen.

K was sitting on the floor. He picked up a red cherry from the floor and said "l found sweetie" holding up the red cherry and looking at me. He then came over to me and handed me the cherry. He sat with his sister on the floor and began tearing pieces of old newspaper. He then got up and stood behind a folded, upright ironing board and watched me. From behind the ironing board K pointed at me and said, "B chair". In response his sister said, "Mum’s chair". K said "B's chair" again. He came from behind the ironing board and walked over to the other side of the room where there were two food trolleys. He pointed to one and said, "Mum’s shopping bag". He stayed with the shopping bag for a while then came to sit in one of two remaining chairs, saying "this is my chair".

The intercom buzzed and B started shouting "Daddy's back, daddy's back". K joined in with this shouting, and both left the room.

B told her dad "Anna's here" and we greeted each other. K ran between his father and the living room. I spoke briefly to the father in the living room and returned to my seat. Dad stayed for about few minutes and then left the flat. K and his sister stayed in the living room. B came behind me and we played hide and seek for a few minutes. When B moved on to something else, K briefly stood behind me and played hide and seek. Sister left the room and K stayed behind me but no longer playing. He is exhausted and sat in front of the telly watching children program. It is time for me to leave; l was escorted to the door and mum said goodbye.

Appendix 2- anonymised consent forms for child and adult observations
Reflection on Child Observation
Consent form

I……………………………….. As part of my career development as a social worker, I am studying at ………………………..

As part of profession, I am needed to observe, and document children in my care. These observation will only be used to meet the requirements of the qualification I am needed to develop.

Codes will be used to protect your child’s identity and their right to confidentiality. No part of this collected data will be available for any third party and all measures to observe confidentially will be observed.

This permission can be rescinded at any time by written notice from the signatory.

I _________________________________________ (parent) give permission for my

Child ________________________________________________ (child’s name) to be included in the observation processes described above.

Only while she is in attendance at:


Signature of parent;

______________________________________________ Date: ______________________________

Reflection on Adult Observation





Study Purpose

The purpose of this study is to observe adult, and evaluate their development and reassure that development is alright based on theoretical framework

Study Procedures

The procedure will includes observation and recording of data


No risk perceived to appear. However, participants might feel unsafe being observed thus advised to withdraw anytime they feel they are unwilling to continue with the observation


The data collected with be highly confidential and in no way will the name or any information that can identify the participant will be revealed to third party. The data will only be used by the researcher for the purpose of the study and participant identity and right will be confident. No information concerning home or its environment will be provided. These materials will not be used in any other way.

Voluntary Participation

Participation in this study is voluntary. Therefore, participants are required to decide if to take part or not. When you decide to participate, you will be requested to sign a consent form. However, after this you are free to withdraw at any time. Withdrawing from this research would not impact any relationship with the researcher. When you withdraw, your data will be deleted and not used in any way.


I have read and I understand the information provided and was given chance to ask questions. I am also aware that my participation is voluntary and I have freedom to exit anytime without giving a reason or consequences. I also understand that I have to sign this consent form. I voluntarily agree to take part in this observation.

Participant's signature ______________________________ Date __________

Observer signature _____________________________ Date __________

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