Prolonged Mutual Engagement in Mother-Toddler Play Interactions

Authors: von Suchodoletz, A., Strouf, K., Altaf, S., Kärtner, J., (2021)

Play is an integral part of child development as it "requires the integration of cognitive, social, emotional, and motivational abilities” (Valentino et al., 2006, p.  474; Cohen, 2006). During the early childhood years, parent-child interactions provide an important context for children’s play (Cohen, 2006; Tamis-LeMonda, Shannon, Cabrera, & Lamb, 2004; Valentino et al., 2011). Parents take a critical role in structuring and guiding play activities. Specifically, mothers are  considered to be stage managers behind the play interaction where they are constantly engaged with their toddlers (Pierce 2000).

The present study focuses on prolonged play interactions between mothers and toddlers. We define an interaction as a discrete sequential event during play. Within these dyadic interactions, the present study concentrates on periods of mutual engagement. Conceptualized as both verbal and nonverbal “active participation” (Vandermaas-Peeler et al., 2003), as well as the “active sharing of an object or event” (Nelson et al., 2008, p.2), mutual engagement is the result of one partner responding to the other’s behavior during play.

The purpose of this study was to investigate:

- the likelihood of response patterns leading to periods of prolonged mutual engagement and whether there are differences between responders (mother or 
  child) and play contexts.
- child temperament in relation to the likelihood of prolonged mutual engagement that follows a response pattern.

Poster presentation at the SRCD Virtual Biennial Meeting 2021.