Psychology Publications

The Behavioral Dynamics of Mutual Responsiveness in Early Face-to-Face Mother-Infant Interactions

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Child Development





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The behavioral dynamics of 3 different types of early mother-infant interactions were examined. 20 mothers were instructed to play with, imitate, and hold the attention of their 13-16-week-old infants in 3 3-min episodes. Frequency of vocalization, gaze direction, and smiling by both interactants, tactile play by the mother, and crying by the infant were coded from the video-records. Mothers were more talkative, touched their babies more often, showed more positive affect, and were more animated during play and attention-getting than during imitation. Despite these differences in maternal interaction style, infants were equally attentive to their mothers, as measured by gaze, in all 3 conditions. Sequential analyses of changes in behavior were used as indicators of the moment-to-moment responsiveness of the mother and the active involvement of the infant in the interaction. According to these measures, mothers displayed significant levels of actual behavioral responsiveness only in play and imitation episodes, and infants were actively involved only under those same conditions. Furthermore, correlational analyses revealed that the infants of mothers who were most responsive during play and attention-getting episodes also displayed relatively high levels of responsiveness. Further research is necessary to establish and identify the nature of the suggested relation between maternal responsiveness and infant involvement in interaction.

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