Module 4: Promoting Mental Health in Early Childhood

Observations of Parent-Child Interactions

Developmental and behavioral observations help to identify strengths, issues, and potential risk factors.

Parent-child interactions are shaped by cultural norms and values. In order to accurately interpret observations, it is important for the provider to learn about the norms and expectations of the populations served and remember that different cultures have different norms.

During each visit, providers should observe:

  • How do parent and child communicate?
  • Does parent use positive terms when speaking to child? About child?
  • What is child’s activity level, and how does parent react?
  • How does parent set limits?
  • How does parent occupy and comfort child?
  • How does parent react when professional praises child?
  • Does parent give child choices? Allow child to answer questions?
  • Does parent pay attention to child’s behavior, matching unacceptable behavior with consequences?
  • If other children in family: How do parent, child, and siblings interact?

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