Caregiver-infant interactions in humans; reciprocity and interactional synchrony. The role of the father

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Reciprocity: 

  • from birth mothers and babies spend a lot of time in intense and pleasurable interaction. Babies have periodic alert phases and mothers pick on this and respond two thirds of the time (Feldman and Eidelman 2007)
  • interaction becomes more frequent after around three months and involves close attention to each other`s verbal signs and facial expressions (Feldman 2007). Reciprocity is a key element of this process - an interaction being reciprocal when each person responds to the other and elicits a response from them.
  • traditional views of childhood have seen the baby taking a passive role - receiving care from an adult. However, it seems that the baby takes an active role - both mother and baby initiate interactions and appear to take turns in doing so. Brazleton et al 1975 described the interaction as a dance because, just like in a couples dance, each partner responds to each others moves

Interactional Synchrony:

  • Feldman 2007 defined interactional synchrony as "the temporal co-ordination of micro-level social behaviour". it takes place when mother and infant interact in such a way that their actions and emotions are mirrored
  • Meltzoff and Moore 1977 observed the beginnings of interactional synchrony in children as young as two weeks old. an adult showed the baby either one of three facial expressions or distinctive gestures. the respond of the child was recorded and identified by an independent observer - an association was found between the action of the adult and the action of the baby.
  • it is beleived that this is important for the development of mother infant attachment. Isabella et al 1989 observed 30 mothers and infants together and assessed the degree of synchrony. Researchers also assessed the quality of mother-infant attachment. They found high levels of synchrony were associated were better quality mother-infant attachment.

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