Glossary of Child Development: Chapter 2 (Studying Child Development)

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Age-history confound
In longitudinal studies, the co-occurrence of historical factors with changes in age; affects the ability to interpret results.
Case study
In-depth description of psychological characteristics and behaviors of an individual, often in the form of a narrative.
Clinical method
Flexible, open-ended interview method in which questions are modified in reaction to the child’s responses.
Cohort effects
Characteristics shared by individuals growing up in a given sociohistorical context that can influence developmental outcomes.
Correlation coefficient
Statistical measure, ranging from +1.00 to -1.00, that summarizes the strength and direction of the relationship between two variables; does not provide information about causation.
Correlational study
Study that assesses whether changes in one variable are accompanied by systematic changes in another variable.
Cross-cultural study
Study that compares individuals in different cultural contexts.
Cross-sectional study
A study in which individuals of different ages are examined at the same point in time.
Providing research participants with a statement of the true goals of a study after initially deceiving them or omitting information about its purposes.
Dependent variable
Dependent variableBehavior that is measured; suspected effect of an experimental manipulation.
Set of methods, including observations and interviews, used by researchers to describe the behaviors and underlying meaning systems within a given culture.
Experimental design
Research method in which one or more independent variables are manipulated to determine the effect on other, dependent variables.
Field experiment
Experiment conducted in a "natural," real-world setting such as the child’s home or school.
Independent variable
Variable manipulated by the experimenter; the suspected cause.
Informed consent
Participant’s formal acknowledgment that he or she understands the purposes, procedures, and risks of a study and agrees to participate in it.
Longitudinal study
Research in which the same participants are repeatedly tested over a period of time, usually years.
Statistical examination of a body of research studies to assess the effect of the common central variable.
Naturalistic observation
Study in which observations of naturally occurring behavior are made in real-life settings.
Negative correlation
Relationship in which changes in one variable are accompanied by systematic changes in another variable in the opposite direction.
Observer bias
Tendency of researchers to interpret ongoing events as being consistent with their research hypotheses.
Operational definition
Specification of variables in terms of measurable properties.
Participant reactivity
Tendency of individuals who know they are under observation to alter natural behavior.
Positive correlation
Relationship in which changes in one variable are accompanied by systematic changes in another variable in the same direction.
Study in which the assignment of individuals to experimental groups is determined by their natural experiences.
Set of standardized questions administered to individuals in written form.
Random assignment
Use of principles of chance to assign participants to treatment and control groups; avoids systematic bias.
Degree to which a measure will yield the same results if administered repeatedly.
Scientific method
Use of objective, measurable, and repeatable techniques to gather information.
Sequential study
Study that examines groups of children of different ages over a period of time; usually shorter than a longitudinal study.
Single-case design
Study that follows only one or a few participants over a period of time, with an emphasis on systematic collection of data.
Structured interview
Standardized set of questions administered orally to participants.
Structured observation
Study in which behaviors are recorded as they occur within a situation constructed by the experimenter, usually in the laboratory.
Stable, early-appearing constellation of individual personality attributes believed to have a hereditary basis; includes sociability, emotionality, and activity level.
Degree to which an assessment procedure actually measures the variable under consideration.
Factor having no fixed or constant value in a given situation.

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