Joint attention development in infants and mothers
Loy, Margaret L.
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The development of joint attention from the beginning to the middle of infants' first year is a time of growth and change not only in infants but in the dyadic interactions between mothers and infants. Specifically, as infants grow, so does the sophistication of their initiations and responses that lead to joint attention episodes. Existing research has found that joint attention episodes are the medium in which social learning takes place, and, in particular, language development, suggesting that it is time spent within joint attention episodes that facilitates learning and deeper levels of processing. Some researchers have focused on describing different types of joint attention episodes while others have identified specific initiating and responding behaviors that demonstrate that infants have joint attention ability.;The current study is the first to bring these two bodies of research together to examine whether joint attention ability actually leads to successful episodes of joint attention and how joint attention ability continues to develop and change across time. A sample of 29 infants and their mothers were video-recorded during 6 minutes of free play when the infants were 13 months and again at 17 months. The videos were coded for the following maternal and infant behaviors: overture to a toy looking to an object, gesturing, gazing to a partner, and vocalizing. These behaviors were further coded by initiation and response type.;The less sophisticated infant initiations involved an overture to a toy only (Object-focused precipitating events) whereas a full joint attention initiation involved an overture to a toy and an attempt to engage the partner (Combined initiations). If certain criteria were met--both partners were jointly focused on each other and an object/toy for at least 3 seconds-- the interaction was coded as a joint attention episode. The current study found changes across time such that the frequency of infants' sophisticated Combined initiations increased across time as did the success rate of those initiations achieving joint attention episodes. The mothers remained highly responsive across time whether infants were only making overtures to toys or more sophisticated Combined initiations. The success of both initiation types increased across time, although their more sophisticated Combined initiations were more successful.;This study describes specific behaviors of mothers and infants that lead to successful joint attention episodes and how those behaviors change across time. By analyzing the behaviors of typically developing infants and their mothers, the current study adds an important piece to the developmental picture of joint attention by answering the question of whether certain joint attention skills/behaviors do, in fact, bring mothers and infants to a joint attention state and how joint attention skills develop and change over time.