Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 1818–1829 | Cite as

Comparing Live and Video Observation to Assess Early Parent-child Interactions in the Home

  • Nicole GridleyEmail author
  • Tracey Jane Bywater
  • Judy Mary Hutchings
Original Paper


Observation is the ‘gold standard’ for assessing parent-child behavior, however few studies have compared coding live, in real time, versus coding from videotapes in terms of their achievable levels of coder reliability within the field of parent programme research. This is important for practitioners and researchers for whom decisions might be influenced by time and financial constraints, but where outcomes may have real practical and clinical implications. Trained coders in the Dyadic Parent-Child Interaction Coding System Revised, coded 40 half-hour videotapes of 33 parent-toddler dyads interacting in the home on 29 items of dyadic behaviour. Four theorised composite variables were constructed. Videotaped data were compared to data drawn from the same interactions previously coded ‘live’ in the home. Correlations indicated significant agreement between the two modes at the item by item level (p < .001). Wilcoxon Rank tests revealed significant differences (p < .001) between the two modes. Eight items exceeded a ±30% change in median score suggesting clinically relevant differences. Although both methods achieved acceptable levels of inter-rater reliability, video coding achieved higher levels of agreement. Subtle differences exist between the two modes. Whilst neither mode proved superior it is suggested that they should not be used interchangeably.


Observation Reliability Agreement Parent-child interaction 



This study was conducted as part of a self-funded Masters and a fully funded PhD (2/3 School of Psychology, Bangor University; 1/3 Children’s Early Intervention Trust Charity). We would like to acknowledge Dr’s Karen Jones, Nia Griffith, Catrin Eames, Pamela Martin-Forbes, Kirsty Pye and Joanna Charles for conducting the live observation visits. Finally, we would like to thank the parents and children who took part in the randomised controlled trial from which this data was drawn, for their commitment to the project and for providing us with this data.

Author Contributions

N. G. designed and executed the study, conducted data analyses, and wrote the paper. T. B. collaborated with the design and writing of the study, and editing the final manuscript. J. H. collaborated with the design and writing of the study, and editing the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authos declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

Ethical approval for the current study was provided by Bangor University, Wales, UK.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health SciencesUniversity of YorkYorkUK
  2. 2.Centre for Evidence Based Early InterventionBangor UniversityBangorUK

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