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date: 21 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Observational coding involves classifying and quantifying verbal and nonverbal behavioral events or psychological states, irrespective of participants' reports or perceptions. Such coding has been widely used to index the dimensions of diagnostic symptoms associated with various disorders, the contextual dynamics of functional importance to these disorders, and individual differences (e.g., child temperament) and internal processes (e.g., cognitive biases) implicated in pathways to these disorders. We provide an overview of the applications of observational coding strategies in clinical research, and key principles in the design and implementation of observational strategies. Examples are drawn from programs of research that demonstrate the theory-driven use of observation, often in the context of multimethod measurement. We also focus specifically on observational measurement in intervention designs, and make recommendations regarding the role of observation in addressing research challenges associated with emerging models of psychopathology.

Keywords: Observational coding, direct observation, parent–child interaction, relationship dynamics

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