Real-time dynamics and developmental changes in early mother-infant interaction: Italian, Cameroonian, and West African immigrant dyads  (2014)

Lavelli M.; Carra C.; Keller; H.
Real-time dynamics and developmental changes in early mother-infant interaction: Italian, Cameroonian, and West African immigrant dyads
Type of item:
Abstract in Atti di convegno
Tipologia ANVUR:
Abstract in Atti di convegno
Nations of authors:
ICIS (International Conference on Infant Studies) 2014
July 3-5
Page numbers:
Mother-infant interaction, culture, immigration, developmental changes
Short description of contents:
Several studies conducted in Western countries have shown that by 6-8 weeks of life infants demonstrate a sudden shift in state regulation and other important behavioral transformations indexed by the onset of social smiling, sustained visual attention, speech-like sounds such as cooing. These transformations lead to a qualitative change in the way infants participate in social interaction. Few cross-cultural studies addressed this topic showing contrasting results. However, these studies focused on analyzing maternal responses to their infants' social behaviors more than the mutual influence of maternal and infant behaviors in developing patterns of interaction from as early as the first month of life. The present study investigated both real-time relationships (i.e., significant transitional probabilities) between maternal and infant behaviors, and developmental changes in patterns of mother-infant interaction over the first 3 months of life --that is, before, during, and after the 2-month transition--, in different sociocultural contexts: Italian middle-class families, West African (Cameroonian, Ghanaian, Nigerian) immigrant families in Italy, and Cameroonian/Nso rural families. Twenty mother-infant dyads from each cultural context were videotaped during spontaneous interaction, longitudinally, every two weeks between 4 and 12 weeks. Infants' behaviors were coded as joint states of attention and emotional expression. Mothers' behaviors were coded in categories grouped into behavioral patterns: Body Contact, Just Gazing, Affectionate Talking (including Smiling/Mirroring), Motor Stimulation, Tactile Stimulation, Object Stimulation. Results reveal that in all groups infants' Smiling/Cooing at the Mother's face increased significantly at 6 weeks, but remained in low proportions for the Cameroonian/Nso infants, while increased again at 8 weeks for the Italian and immigrant groups. A parallel increase during the 2nd month was observed in infants' Active Attention to the Mother's face for the Italian and immigrant groups, and in maternal Affectionate Talking, concurrent with decrease in Body Contact, only for the Italian group. Longitudinal sequential analysis of maternal and infant behaviors performed within group shows how different real-time dynamics of mother-infant interaction may have shaped the development of the 2-month transition in the different cultural groups (see Fig. 1, 2). From as early as 4 weeks, in Italian and immigrant dyads maternal Affectionate Talking is linked with infant Active Attention to the Mother's face in sequences of face-to-face contact that foster the following emergence of infant Smiling/Cooing, and then sequences of positive feedback in face-to-face communication. In contrast, in Cameroonian/Nso dyads infant's and mother's behaviors are associated in patterns of body stimulation, particularly maternal Motor Stimulation linked with Infant Active Attention to the surrounding environment, observed also in immigrant dyads, maintained over the 2nd and 3rd month. Consistently, when around 6-8 weeks Cameroonian/Nso infants addressed some Smiling/Cooing at their mothers, the latter reacted with Tactile Stimulation that did not foster the maintenance of the infants' gazing at their face. On the whole, these findings suggest that the infants' social behaviors indexing the 2-month transition are not only integrated in culture-specific patterns of interaction, but also affected by the early experience of mother-infant interaction --rooted in a specific cultural context-- over and above than by neurological maturation.
Web page: view/0/ISISconference2014.html. 2014ProgramBook.pdf
Product ID:
Handle IRIS:
Deposited On:
November 28, 2015
Last Modified:
November 2, 2016
Bibliographic citation:
Lavelli M.; Carra C.; Keller; H., Real-time dynamics and developmental changes in early mother-infant interaction: Italian, Cameroonian, and West African immigrant dyads  in ISISconference2014.ProgramBook.pdfProceedings of "ICIS (International Conference on Infant Studies) 2014" , Berlin , July 3-5 , 2014pp. 41-42

Consulta la scheda completa presente nel repository istituzionale della Ricerca di Ateneo IRIS

Related projects
Title Department Managers
Early development of intersubjectivity: Universality and cultural specificity (in collaboration with University of Osnabrueck, Germany) Department Scienze Umane Manuela Lavelli


Research facilities