The Relationship Of Mother/infant Interactions And Social-Communicative Competence In A High Risk Population

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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




This study examined the relationship of mother style of interaction to infant social and cognitive competencies. Two samples of 12 month-old (n = 18) and 18 month-old (n = 15) Black high-risk infants and their mothers were video taped for 10 minutes in a semi-structured play situation. Only infants from a follow-up clinic who had not been delayed on the Bayley Mental Development Index at 6 months participated. Mothers' behaviors were categorized as Responsive or Non-Responsive and Directive or Non-Directive using a coding system consisting of 90 behaviors. The infants were also tested on the Bayley Mental Scale and on a social-communication measure which categorizes behaviors into three pragmatic function: Social Interaction, Joint Attention, and Behavior Regulation and three roles: Initiating, Responding, and Maintaining. Infants with deficits on the initiating and maintaining scales were predicted to have mothers exhibiting more directive behaviors. Mothers of 18 month olds exhibiting cognitive delays on the Bayley at 18 months were expected to be more directive than mothers of 18 month olds without delays. Furthermore, the data were explored for additional relationships between the mother's overall style of interacting with her infant and the infant's performance on the social-communication measure.Only infants with delays on initiating social interaction were found to have mothers with more directive and non-responsive behaviors (F (1,31) = 7.98, p < .05). No relationship was found between maternal style and cognitive delay for infants at 18 months. In the twelve month sample, mothers exhibiting higher rates of responsive but also directive behaviors, had infants with higher joint attention skills in the test situation (r = .58, n = 18, p < .01). In contrast, in the 18 month sample mothers exhibiting higher rates of responsive, but non-directive behaviors, had infants with higher joint attention skills (r = .51, N = 15, p < .05). Infants at 12 months with mothers exhibiting higher rates of responsive, non-directive behaviors initiated social interactions with the tester at lower levels (r = -.53, n = 18, p < .05). Infants at 18 months with mothers exhibiting higher rates of non-responsive and non-directive behaviors, thus ignoring the infant's states and interests, tended to initiate higher level social interactions with the tester (r = -.52, n = 15, p < .05). Thus, there is a complex relationship between mothers degrees of responsiveness and directiveness and their infant's social interaction and joint attention skills at the different ages.


Psychology, Developmental

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