THE FATHER'S ROLE IN EARLY INFANCY: A CASE STUDY OF PATERNAL PARALANGUAGE
BARNETT, ROANNE K.
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This is a longitudinal case study comparing the paralinguistic and syntactic features of speech of a parental couple who equally share caregiving for their infant son. Data were collected by the parents in the home by their taperecording socializing episodes with the infant bi-monthly from birth to six months. The Infant Temperament Questionnaire was filled out by each parent individually. The data (collected during socializing and feeding conditions) were subjected to a microanalysis of speech variables, including syntax complexity, timing, intonation, and repetition.;The results indicated that the father demonstrated marked infant-elicited speech from the time of the infant's birth, and adjusted his speech as the infant matured developmentally. There were similarities and differences in parental speech that complemented each other, and a convergence of parental speech stimulus parameters at six months. Until six months the father generally provided a speech environment considerably more stimulating, challenging, diversified, and didactic than the mother's. During feeding the father more closely approximated the mother's gentle, soothing speech environment.;The study suggests that similarities between the parents are dictated by the needs of the infant. Parental differences are attributed to (1) personal stylistic differences; (2) individual responses to similarly perceived aspects of the infant's temperament and consequent interpretations of his needs; and (3) different interpretations of the young infant's ambiguous signalling system. The convergence of parental speech behaviors at six months is attributed to an interface of the infant's generally more mature organization as a social partner and the parents' mutual learning experiences with the infant and each other. The convergence of parental speech parameters is thought to facilitate language comprehension and acquisition. It is suggested that the young infant's capacities may be better assessed by longitudinal examination of the behaviors the infant elicits from both of his parents.;It is speculated that the father plays a unique role in the infant's linguistic, cognitive, affective and social development. The father's diversified, challenging and stimulating speech behaviors teach the infant about the negotiatory, coactive nature of dialogue and social intercourse, within a holding environment. The father's speech behaviors simultaneously establish his authority while fostering the infant's self-assertiveness and initiative. This complements the more conventional rules communicated by the mother.;The father's consistent integration of tender, nurturing and highly stimulating experiences suggests that a paternal symbiosis co-exists with but differs qualitatively and functionally from the maternal symbiosis. The father is thought to foster the execution of coping operations and thereby promote the building of sturdy psychic boundaries. He also provides the infant with regular and predictable experiences of self-assertiveness and resiliency, which are critical roots of individuation. When examined within a triadic framework, co-existing parent-infant symbioses are thought to enhance the infant's options regarding identification and to enrich the nature and scope of his understanding of intimacy. These experiences are considered vital to the infant's acceptance of other co-existing intimate relationships within the family, such as with siblings, and later outside the family, with peers, and ultimately to enhance the role he will assume in his own future nuclear family.
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