Observational methods benefit the study of family process, but many expert rating systems are costly and time-consuming. This study examined the utility of using small groups of eight to ten nonexperts to rate family conflict and maternal sensitivity. Videotaped triadic interactions of 39 families were drawn from Lindahl (1998), and 22 mother-toddler free-play interactions were drawn from Baker, Messinger, Lyons, and Grantz (2010). Sixty undergraduates rated interactions from these samples in real time using computer-assisted technology. Nonexpert ratings of family conflict were reliable, demonstrated high concordance with expert ratings, and replicated a key finding from Lindahl (1998). Nonexpert ratings of maternal sensitivity replicated a relevant finding from Baker, Messinger et al. (2010). Concordance was lower for maternal sensitivity, however, because of the tendency of nonexperts to overattend to sensitive structuring compared with emotional supportiveness. A second study indicated that as few as six nonexperts could effectively rate maternal sensitive structuring, but that nonexperts were unable to accurately rate emotional supportiveness. Implications for research methods and for our understanding of these important family constructs are discussed.
- Family conflict
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