Customising "The Observer Video-Pro" to facilitate coding of behaviour by untrained observers (parents of children with disruptive behaviour)

W.J. Budenberg1, N.E. Symons1 and M. Smith2

1 Tracksys Ltd, Nottingham, United Kingdom
2 School of Psychology, University of Wales, Bangor, United Kingdom


Observational and attending skills deficits have been identified in the parents of children with conduct problems who fail to improve after parental training. The established method of measuring these skills [3] involves parental coding of their child's behaviour from video tape. This is both costly and time-consuming and therefore not implemented clinically. The Bangor Project for Children with Disruptive Behaviours (School of Psychology, University of Wales, Bangor) wanted to evaluate Wahler's methodology against PCAMT (Parent-Child Autobiographical Memory Test), a brief assessment with standardised administration and scoring [2], to establish whether the latter is a comparable measure of parental observation and attending skills. If so, this could then be used in the clinical setting to predict those parents who would need extra training to enable their children's behaviour to improve.

The group at Bangor wanted an easy-to-use, mobile system for allowing both parents and professional observers to code behaviour during every 15-second interval. The parent would simply code child positive and aversive responses, and the trained observer would then subsequently score the same piece of video using a more complex coding system (a validated multicode observational system, the Standard Observation Codes (SOCIII, cf. [1]). Each pair of data sets would be compared to generate a positive and negative bias score for each parent (using t-tests of parental and professional ratings in 15-second intervals).

These problems were addressed by using The Observer Video-Pro, Noldus Information Technology’s event recording and data analysis system, with a customised keypad (Tracksys Ltd). Thirty minutes of home-based family interactions were recorded using a VHS camcorder, which was then encoded via the Broadway card as an MPEG-1 (a high quality compressed digital video format) file and written to a CD-ROM. The researcher then returned to the family's home with only a notebook computer and the digital video was displayed using The Observer Video-Pro software. The event-recording screen was customised so that the video image alone was visible, avoiding extraneous information normally provided by the software influencing scoring behaviour. The parent used a customised keypad offering only 2 keys (to score aversive and positive child responses), linked to the PS/2 keyboard interface on the notebook. The keypad was operated at the same time as the normal keyboard (allowing the researcher to control the start and end of observation sessions) and provided different audio feedback for positive and aversive behaviours. Preliminary results indicate that the system works well, and that parents find the test one which they can manage with relative ease. Data will be available by the end of 1998.


  1. Cerezo, A.; Keezler, T.Y.; Wahler, R.G.; Dunn, E.S. (1986). Standardized Observation Codes: Revision III. Unpublished Paper, Child Behaviour Institute, University of Tennessee.
  2. Hutchings, J.M. (1996). The personal and parental characteristics of pre-school children referred to a child and family mental health service and relation to treatment outcome. Unpublished D.Clin.Psy. Thesis, University of Wales, Bangor.
  3. Wahler, R.G.; House, A.E.; Stambaugh, E.E. (1976). Ecological Assessment of Child Problem Behavior: A Clinical Package for Home, School and Institutional Settings. New York: Pergamon Press.

Poster presented at Measuring Behavior '98, 2nd International Conference on Methods and Techniques in Behavioral Research, 18-21 August 1998, Groningen, The Netherlands

© 1998 Noldus Information Technology b.v.