Topical Review: Families Coping with Child Trauma: A Naturalistic Observation Methodology

Eva Alisic, Anna Barrett, Peter Bowles, Rowena Conroy, Matthias R. Mehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objective To introduce a novel, naturalistic observational methodology (the Electronically Activated Recorder; EAR) as an opportunity to better understand the central role of the family environment in children's recovery from trauma. Methods Discussion of current research methods and a systematic literature review of EAR studies on health and well-being. Results Surveys, experience sampling, and the EAR method each provide different opportunities and challenges for studying family interactions. We identified 17 articles describing relevant EAR studies. These investigated questions of emotional well-being, communicative behaviors, and interpersonal relationships, predominantly in adults. 5 articles reported innovative research in children, triangulating EAR-observed behavioral data (e.g., on child conflict at home) with neuroendocrine assay, sociodemographic information, and parent report. Finally, we discussed psychometric, practical, and ethical considerations for conducting EAR research with children and families. Conclusions Naturalistic observation methods such as the EAR have potential for pediatric psychology studies regarding trauma and the family environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-127
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of pediatric psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • accidents and injuries
  • family functioning
  • posttraumatic stress
  • research design and methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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