The coordination of infant behaviors: An event-based analysis

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Daniel S. Messinger, Committee Chair


This study examined the coordination of early infant communicative behaviors from an event-based perspective. The majority of previous studies have analyzed the coordination of infant behaviors with a time-based approach in which the unit of coding and analysis is a fixed time interval (e.g., one second). In contrast, an event-based approach focuses on the temporal sequencing of whole actions from different communicative modalities that have some temporal overlap. Forty full-term, normally developing infants were observed at 3 and 6 months of age while engaged in different interactive contexts with their mothers. The infants' facial expressions, vocalizations and gaze direction were coded and the coordination between (1) vocalizations and facial expressions; (2) facial expressions and gaze direction; and (3) gaze direction and vocalizations was analyzed.Coordinated events in the framework of this study included behaviors from two communicative modalities that had some temporal overlap. Non-coordinated events included behaviors that occurred in the absence of behaviors from another communicative modality. A bootstrapping/Markov model was used to determine the expected frequencies of the various coordinated and non-coordinated events. The 40 infants showed a systematic tendency to coordinate actions across the vocal and facial domains and across the facial and gaze domains in that the number of observed coordinated events occurred significantly more than expected by chance. It did not appear as if the infants coordinated vocalizations and gaze direction at better than chance levels. Further examination of the coordinated vocalization-facial expression sequences and the facial expression-gaze sequences revealed that the infants favored certain sequence patterns over others and that these coordinated patterns followed certain sequencing principles.This study provides clear evidence that infants display coordinated behaviors across communicative modalities in the first six months of life, confirms results from other time-based and event-based coordination studies and applies new methods for the analysis of event-based data to various infant-caregiver interaction.


Psychology, Behavioral; Psychology, Developmental

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