Mutual regulation between infant facial affect and maternal touch in depressed and nondepressed dyads

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The ability to regulate affect is important for later adaptive child development. In the first months of life, infants have limited resources for regulating their own affects (e.g. by gaze aversion), and for this reason they are dependent on external affect regulation from their parents. Previous research suggests that touch is an important means through which parents regulate their infants’ affects. Also, previous research has shown that post-partum depressed (PPD) mothers and nonclinical mothers differ in their touching behaviors when interacting with their infants. We examined the affect-regulating function of affectionate, caregiving and playful maternal touch in 24 PPD and 47 nonclinical mother-infant dyads when infants were four months old. In order to investigate the direction of effects and to account for repeated observations, the data were analysed using time-window sequential analysis and Generalized Estimating Equations. The results showed that mothers adapt their touching behaviors according to negative infant facial affect; thus, when the infant displays negative facial affect, the mothers were less likely to initiate playful touch and more likely to initiate caregiving touch. Unexpectedly, only in the PPD dyads, were the mothers more likely to initiate affectionate touch when their infants were displaying negative facial affect. Our results also showed that mothers use specific touch types to regulate infants’ negative and positive affects; infants are more likely to initiate positive affect during periods with playful touch, and more likely to terminate negative affect during periods with caregiving touch.
TidsskriftInfant Behavior and Development
Sider (fra-til)274-283
Antal sider10
StatusUdgivet - feb. 2018

ID: 222750883