An intensive observational study of five infants at potential risk
This thesis employs detailed naturalistic observations to study infants from birth to two years. The intensive observational method was originally a training method used in the education of psychotherapists, and it is here adapted for the purposes of research, providing the means whereby the adaptation of the infants within the context of their families could be studied in considerable detail. In particular, the qualities of development that were associated with'risk' (and its corollary, resilience) were capable of detailed observation using this method The naturalistic observational method and the interest in developing relationships and relatedness of the infants and their parents required consideration of a theoretical approach in which the data from the observations could be thought about in terms of emotionality. These theoretical considerations are located in the literature of the two paradigms of child developmental research and psychoanalysis, and leads to an operationalisation of key psychoanalytical concepts, especially Bion's container-contained. In conjunction with the data from the observations, a model is developed which forms a conceptual framework for the purposes of structuring the writing of a descriptive case study for each infant. Further, the categories of the 'model' are used to form an assessment grid, which provides comparisons over time and between the infants in the study. The grid is used both qualitatively and quantitatively. The thesis is therefore innovative and exploratory It contributes to the field through developing new theoretical and methodological approaches. The operationalisation of psychoanalytical concepts adds to the understanding of infancy through empirical study.. The thesis also contributes to and extends psychoanalytical theory with regard to infant development. Thirdly, the study makes a contribution to the understanding of the dynamics of risk in infancy, which is of practical use to professionals in the field. Methodologically, the thesis provides evidence for the efficacy of the wider application of this method of studying infancy, which leads to suggestions for future research through the validation of the concepts and categories developed here.