Early Relationships - The role of Caregiver-Infant Interactions

Social deveoplment resit

Early devlopment section

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Schaffer and Emerson (1964)

  • Studied 60 Glasgow infants, carrying out observations and interviews with parents at regular intervals during the first 18 months after birth.
  • They found that a particular pattern of attachment behaviour occured and identified stages in the development of attachment
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Asocial (0-6 weeks)

  • Babies respond in a similar way to people and objects, although they prefer to look at human-like stimuli
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Diffuse (6 weeks to 6 months)

  • Babies show no particular preference for a specific individual and will be comforted by anyone
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Single strong attachment (7 to 12 months)

  • Babies show a strong preference for a single individual and will show a fear of strangers
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Multiple attachments (from 12 months)

  • Babies will show attachment towards several figures. By 18 months some infants have as many as five attachment figures
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Immediate physical contact

  • Research in the 1970s suggested that mother and baby should have immediate contact after birth because skin-to-skin stimulation was important for the formation of a bond
  • Klaus and Kennell (1976) argued that mothers who cuddled their baby in a critical period after birth enjoyed better relationships with the child than those mothers who did not have that opportunity
  • In the short term it does seem that mothers who have immediate contact show more tender interactions with the child and spend more time looking at them than mothers who do not
  • Longer term effects of early contact are less reliably demonstrated, although in some cases early contact does appear to be related to general adequacy of parenting (Bee, 1989)
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  • Melzoff and Moore (1977) investigated imitation of facial expressions in 2 and 3 week-old infants


  • Infants were presented with a set of 3 facial expressions (tongue pull, lip protrusion and open mouth) and one hand movement involving sequential finger movement. A dummy was positioned in the infant's mouth to prevent any movement before and during the modelling of the behaviour by the adult. After presentation of the behaviour by the model, the dummy was removed from the infant's mouth and immediate response/behaviour was recorded on a close-up video. Independent judges were then asked to rate the infant's response for likeness to any of the 4 target behaviours. Rates were not aware of which expression or movement the infant had been exposed to


  • There was a significant association between the model's behaviour and the infant's behaviour, with infants able to imitate specific facial expressions or hand movements


  • Very young infants will spontaneously imitate facial and hand movements of adult models. The same effect was later demonstrated in infants of less than 3 days old
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Interactional synchrony

  • Condon and Sander (1974) noted how babies would co-ordinate their actions in time with adult speech, taking turns to contribute to the 'convsersation'
  • It has been found that babies move in time with the rhythm of conversation, engaging in s subtle form of turn-taking
  • Isabella et al. (1989) found that securely attached mother-infant pairs were those who had shown more instances of interactional synchrony in home observations during the first year
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Modified language or 'motherese'

  • Snow and Ferguson (1977) identified distinctive language patterns demonstrated by adults conversing with young children
  • Motherese is usually slow, high-pitched and repetitive, varied in intonation and comprises short, simple sentences
  • One of the most distinctive characteristics of motherese is the sing-songy nature of the communication
  • Papousek et al. (1991) found that Chinese, German and American mothers tended to use a rising tone to signal to the baby that it was his or her 'turn' in the interaction
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