During the coronavirus pandemic, developmental psychologists at Heidelberg University are finding new ways of doing research with families. Up until the beginning of the year, many parents were still regularly bringing their children to the Institute of Psychology in order to participate in studies. This is not possible for the foreseeable future, owing to the contact restrictions. Consequently, Sabina Pauen and her team have now invited interested parents to become active researchers themselves. In this way, they aim to learn more about how the present situation is impacting on family life and children’s development.
Under the guidance of the researchers, the parents can log their children’s activities at home, interview them about the coronavirus, observe their behaviour in everyday situations, or find playful ways of handling tasks. "We ask the parents to record these experiences and situations, e.g. with a mobile phone or camera, and to upload the recordings onto a secure university server so that we can analyse them," Prof. Pauen explains. In addition, data on the parents’ perspective is to be collected through online questionnaires. The evaluation of images and data is subject to applicable privacy regulations. The research team have produced video tutorials to support the parents.
"It is a completely new research approach to have parents themselves collect data for scientific purposes. We have to test whether this approach proves promising. But it is certainly worth a try, not to just sit back and wait for the end of the acute crisis situation but also to perceive it as an opportunity for new experiences," Prof. Pauen says. She hopes that her initiative will meet with a good response and that as many parents as possible will assist in keeping up research into children’s development during coronavirus times as well.