From Action to Interaction: Infant Object Exploration and Mothers' Contigent Responsiveness

Authors: Tamis-LeMonda, C.S., Kuchirko, Y., Tafuro, L.

We examined maternal contingent responsiveness to infant object exploration in 190 mother-infant pairs from diverse cultural communities. Dyads were video-recorded during book-sharing and play when infants were 14 mo. Researchers coded the temporal onsets and offsets of infant and mother object exploration and mothers' referential (e.g., “That's a bead”) and regulatory (e.g., “Stop it”) language. The times when infant or mother were neither exploring objects nor communicating were classified as “off task.” Sequential analysis was used to examine whether certain maternal behaviors were more (or less) likely to follow infant object exploration relative to chance, to one another, and to times when infants were off task. Mothers were more likely to explore objects and use referential language in response to infant object exploration than to use regulatory language or be off task, and maternal behaviors were reduced in the context of infants being off task. Additionally, mothers coordinated their object exploration with referential language specifically; thus, mothers' responses to infants were didactic and multimodal. Infant object exploration elicits reciprocal object exploration and informative verbal input from mothers, illustrating the active role infants play in their social experiences.

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