Effect of situation on mother infant interaction

A.J.B.M. Maas, C.M.J.M. Vreeswijk, H.J.A. van Bakel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Research has shown that the early parent–infant relationship is of critical importance for children's developmental outcomes. While the effect of different settings on mother–infant interactive behavior is well studied, only few researchers systematically examined the effect of situational variables on mother–infant interaction. In the present study the effect of situational variables within the home setting on the quality of mother–infant interaction at 6 months was examined as well as the consistency in the quality of behaviors of mother and infant across these situations. During a home visit 292 mother–infant dyads were videotaped in three different situations (i.e., free play, face-to-face play, and diaper change). Interactive behaviors of mother and infant were assessed with the NICHD global ratings scales. Results showed substantial effects of situation on the interactive behavior of the mother–infant dyad. Despite the observed situational effects maternal sensitivity to non-distress, intrusiveness, stimulation of development, and positive regard and all five infant behavioral scales remained stable across the different situations. Insight into situational effects within the home setting on the quality of mother–infant interactive behavior may assist researchers to make well-informed decisions about measuring the parent–infant interaction in one or more specific situations.
► Mother and infant interactive behavior differs per situation in 6-month-olds. ► Maternal sensitivity during face-to-face is higher than in free play and caregiving.
► Infants are most sociable and positive during face-to-face interaction.
► Situational variables should be considered in evaluating mother–infant interaction.
Keywords: Mother–infant interaction, Situational effects, 6-months-old,
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-49
JournalInfant Behavior and Development: An international and multidisciplinary journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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