Tracking infant development with a smartphone: A practical guide to the Experience Sampling Method

Marion I. van den Heuvel*, Anne Bülow, Vera E. Heininga, Elisabeth L. De Moor, Loes H. C. Janssen, Mariek Vanden Abeele, Myrthe G. B. M. Boekhorst

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced developmental researchers to rethink their traditional research practices. The growing need to study infant development at a distance has shifted our research paradigm to online and digital monitoring of infants and families, using electronic devices, such as smartphones. In this practical guide, we introduce the Experience Sampling Method (ESM) – a research method to collect data, in the moment, on multiple occasions over time – for examining infant development at a distance. ESM is highly suited for assessing dynamic processes of infant development and family dynamics, such as parent-infant interactions and parenting practices. It can also be used to track highly fluctuating family dynamics (e.g., infant and parental mood or behavior) and routines (e.g., activity levels and feeding practices). The aim of the current paper was to provide an overview by explaining what ESM is and for what types of research ESM is best suited. Next, we provide a brief step-by-step guide on how to start and run an ESM study, including preregistration, development of a questionnaire, using wearables and other hardware, planning and design considerations, and examples of possible analysis techniques. Finally, we discuss common pitfalls of ESM research and how to avoid them.
Original languageEnglish
Article number703743
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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