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Resch, R.C. (1976). Natural Studies and Natural Observations: A Methodology. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 5:157-205.

(1976). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 5:157-205

2 Developmental Studies

Natural Studies and Natural Observations: A Methodology

Ruth C. Resch, Ph.D.

This paper had its genesis in a study of babies and toddlers who were separating daily from their mothers in the familiar setting of an infant day-care center. This setting provided a uniquely rich opportunity to study separation in very young babies as it occurred ordinarily in their lives. An equally compelling body of direct observational material was available: moment-by-moment behavior narratives sampled in a variety of situations. As a clinician devoted to the dynamics, nuances, and sequences in behavior, and as a researcher devoted to a clinical form of systematic study, I was pressed to try to solve some crucial methodological issues. This became a highly engaging and interesting problem in its own right: how to use observational material in a way that optimizes its richness and variety, and incorporates its limitations. This led to my developing a systematic research model fitted to studying the complexity that is contained in such observations.

The objectives of this paper are to underscore the importance of the descriptive phase and its necessary position within the whole scientific endeavor, and to demonstrate that the specific character of the setting, the phenomenon, and the data can determine new methodologies derived from biology. These will be more clinically useful for looking at natural data and natural data analysis. Methodology is a tool of research, and it is a highly maleable one.

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