Maternal Responsiveness: Facilitating Both Communication and Motor Skills Concurrently with Infants

Zoe Hurdle, “Maternal Responsiveness: Facilitating Both Communication and Motor Skills Concurrently with Infants”
Mentors: Victoria Moerchen & Jacqueline Westerdahl, Kinesiology

Maternal responsiveness is defined as the contingent reactions and emotions a mother expresses in response to her child. Maternal responsiveness has a crucial impact on a child’s development. Understanding how maternal responsiveness supports novel learning for infants is important for early intervention. One approach to initiate this area of inquiry is to explore how maternal responsiveness to an infant during practice of a motor skill might be similar to maternal responsiveness to support communicative development. The purpose of this study was to examine whether mothers’ responsiveness toward their infants during a novel motor task were similar to their responsiveness during a novel teaching activity. Mothers and their infants were studied as a dyad. Infants were typically developing 8-10 month olds who had not yet achieved walking. Two testing contexts were used: A novel teaching task and infant treadmill stepping. In both contexts, the mother supported the infant in learning and/or performing the task. During the treadmill trials, the infant stepped on the treadmill for 8 minutes supported by the mother, who was free to support the infant for rests and comfort as needed. Teaching and treadmill trials were videotaped, transcribed and later coded for: initiations and responses, and within these communicative behaviors including gestures, eye contact, vocalizations and verbalizations across mothers and infants. Within subjects’ analyses using 3 exemplar dyads will be reported. Analyses from coding are pending. Preliminary analyses suggest that maternal responsiveness is greater in the treadmill trials than in the teaching task. Contextual differences in maternal responsiveness may be due to the level of support the mother had to provide for the infant for treadmill stepping. This study provides initial support for maternal responsiveness to an infant during a motor task that is aligned with responsiveness for communicative development.

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  1. Thanks for sharing your research! As a mother of an eight month old, this study feels relevant to my life right now!

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