Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Publication Date



Undergraduate Honours Theses


The objective of this study was to examine the behaviours observed within mother-infant dyads during speech and song play. Previous research has suggested that caregivers convey emotional meaning through vocalizations and emanate behaviours that synchronize interactions with their infants (Dissanayake, 2000; Reyna & Pickler, 2009). Research has also suggested that infants prefer infant-directed singing over speaking and that song can be used to regulate infants’ states of arousal (Nakata & Trehub, 2004). The current study was designed to extend the literature on mother-infant interactions by having mothers play with their infants while singing or speaking to them. The speech context was elicited by asking mothers to play with their infants as they normally would, while the song context was elicited by asking them to sing nursery rhymes of their choice while they played. Subsequently, a researcher entered the room to distract the mother by asking a series of questions. Both maternal and infant behaviour during speech and song were coded for frequency of occurrence; infant behaviour was further coded during the disruption. Results showed that maternal behaviour, including infant referencing, object referencing, and pausing, occurred more frequently in response to speech than to song. Infant behaviour, including positive affect, attention, and turn taking, showed no differences across the two contexts. Additionally, results showed no difference in infant behaviour during the disruption based on the prior context. The findings from the current study give insight into the types of behaviours mothers pair with vocalizations as well as the function of these behaviours.


Thesis Advisor(s): Dr. Christine Tsang

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Included in

Psychology Commons