Chapter 10: Case studies

Activity 1: Investigate the website about the work of James and Joyce Robertson

In the 1950s to 1960s James and Joyce Robertson undertook a series of filmed case studies of young children who were separated from their mothers. The case studies included:

  • a 2-year-old who goes to hospital
  • John, aged 17 months, in a residential day nursery
  • Jane, Lucy, Thomas and Kate who were all children between the ages of 17 months and 2 years and 5 months who were fostered by the Robertsons for brief periods of time.

The case studies were influential in developing our understanding of the effects on very young children of separation from their attachment figures, and ways in which children can be supported.

This is the link to the home page for Robertson’s films: (accessed 08-03-2022). Explore all the different links within the site:

  • Using the information in Chapter 10, describe the type of case study that was used.
  • In what ways have these case studies contributed to our understanding of separation and attachment?
  • In the case studies about John in residential care and the 2-year-old in hospital, the film-maker was a non-participant observer. The children were distressed and the adults around them seemed not to notice this. What ethical issues can you identify?

Activity 2: Watch a YouTube video about Genie (accessed 08-03-2022)

As you watch this video, consider the ethical issues involved. Although Genie’s name was changed, other people in her life were identified and photographs and video footage are easily available. What other ethical issues come to mind as you look at this rather harrowing video?

Activity 3

Sage research methods content

Read this article and then answer the following questions:

Flyvbjerg, B. (2006) ‘Five misunderstandings about case-study research’, Qualitative Inquiry, 12(2): 219–45.

In Chapters 4 and 5 of the book you will read about the advantages and disadvantages of qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Case studies are generally considered to be qualitative research and therefore have no part to play in ‘scientific research’. This fascinating article explains that ‘science’ is strengthened by the inclusion of well-conducted case studies.

  • Consider the question, ‘Have case studies a part to play in “scientific research”?’
  • This is an example of a case study used in a clinical situation. It is a very common approach used to share clinical experiences and reflections.

Read this article and then answer the following questions:

Howell, K., Miller, L., Barnes, S. and Graham-Bermann, S. (2014) ‘Promoting resilience in children exposed to intimate partner violence through a developmentally informed intervention’, Clinical Case Studies, 14(1): 31–46.

  • What paradigm do you consider underpins this research?
  • What methodology was used?
  • What are the potential ethical issues here?
  • Think about some of the issues involved in using case studies.

Read this article and then answer the following questions:

Aubrey, C., Godfrey, R. and Harris, A. (2012) ‘How do they manage? An investigation of early childhood leadership’, Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 41(1): 5–29.

In this article, Aubrey et al. (2012) aim to investigate the nature of leadership in early years care and education. A collective case study approach was taken, looking at 12 early childhood settings in the UK. An interesting aspect of this research was the inclusion of a survey using a questionnaire, demonstrating how different approaches can be used to complement each other.

  • What were the detailed aims of the study?
  • What methodological approach was used when designing this piece of research?
  • Twelve settings were chosen: what was the sampling process?
  • What methods were used to collect data?
  • Summarize the findings.
  • What implications are there for practice?
  • The research was undertaken in the Midlands, an area of the UK. If you live in another country, how far do you think these findings can be applied to early childhood care and education in your country?