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January 2022

Mother-infant reengagement following the still-face: The role of maternal emotional availability in infant affect regulation

Author(s): Carter, A. S.

Journal/Book: Infant Behav Develop. 1996; 19: 355 Chestnut St, Norwood, NJ 07648. Ablex Publ Corp. 359-370.

Abstract: This study investigated how the early mother-infant relationship supports an infant's ability to regulate emotion following the disruption of normal interaction. The responses of 29 4-month-old infants and their economically disadvantaged, predominantly minority mothers were examined during the ''still-face'' paradigm. Mothers were asked to play with their infants for 5 min, maintain a still, affectless expression for 2 min, and resume play for 3 min. Specifically, the relation between dyadic emotional availability in play and the infant's behavior in the period following the still-face, when mothers reengaged with their infants, was explored. Dyadic interaction during play was coded with a scale measuring maternal sensitivity, intrusiveness, and hostility, as well as child responsiveness. The infant's affect and gaze were coded in real time across all three episodes. A new, global coding scheme, which incorporated aspects of reunion behavior codes from Ainsworth's Strange Situation paradigm, was used to measure infant behavior in the reengagement period. The major finding was that at age 4 months, infants of mothers who were more sensitive in play reengaged following the still-face using a more well-regulated, interpersonally oriented style, whereas infants of mothers who were less sensitive exhibited high amounts of avoidant and/or resistant behaviors in reengagement. In addition, exploratory longitudinal data revealed some predictive validity of the 4-month reengagement codes to 12-month Ainsworth attachment scales.

Note: Article N Kogan, Yale Univ, Dept Psychol, POB 208205, New Haven, CT 06520 USA

Keyword(s): infant; still-face; emotion regulation; attachment; SITUATION; PLAY

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