Infant engagement and the timing of mother and stranger stimulation
Zigman, April Anne
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Two related studies were designed to investigate the temporal organization of mother and stranger stimulation in relation to four-month-old infants' affective engagement during face-to-face play. An Engagement-Disengagement scale (Beebe & Gerstman, 1980) measured infant affective engagement by particular coordinations of orientation, attention and facial expressivity.;In Study 1, the timing of maternal kinesic behaviors (hand and/or foot games) was measured to determine normal variations in tempo and rhythmicity and to assess optimum tempo and rhythmicity for infant social responsiveness.;Semi-naturalistic play periods of ten mother-infant dyads were videotaped in the home. Each mother presented her infant with natural temporal patterns. Variations in natural temporal patterning were established by asking the mother to increase and decrease her natural pace. The results indicated that the variations in tempo and rhythmicity produced by the mothers in this study conform to the range of tempo and rhythmicity documented by other investigators examining maternal temporal behavior during face-to-face play. The specific aspects of maternal timing which co-varied with infant affective engagement were found to vary across dyads. Individual infants were responsive to different maternal tempos, rhythms or combination of these variables. These individual differences suggest infants may possess different preferences for maternal temporal stimulation as well as different abilities to tolerate the intensity of maternal stimulation.;Study 2 employed experimental manipulation of temporal variables to examine infant social response both to perfectly regular tempos and to the modality in which temporal stimulation was presented. Ten infants were videotaped interacting with a stranger who presented perfectly regular tempos of.5 seconds per cycle, 1 second per cycle, and 2 seconds per cycle in the vocal modality (song) and the kinesic modality (hand and/or foot games). The results indicated no specific effect of tempo. However, higher levels of infant affective engagement were associated with the vocal modality than with the kinesic modality.