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Infant Crying and Maternal Responsiveness

Silvia M. Bell and Mary D. Salter Ainsworth
Child Development
Vol. 43, No. 4 (Dec., 1972), pp. 1171-1190
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1127506
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1127506
Page Count: 20
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Infant Crying and Maternal Responsiveness
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Abstract

This naturalistic, longitudinal study of 26 infant-mother pairs shows that consistency and promptness of maternal response is associated with decline in frequency and duration of infant crying. By the end of the first year individual differences in crying reflect the history of maternal responsiveness rather than constitutional differences in infant irritability. Close physical contact is the most frequent maternal intervention and the most effective in terminating crying. Nevertheless, maternal effectiveness in terminating crying was found to be less powerful than promptness of response in reducing crying in subsequent months. Evidence suggests that whereas crying is expressive at first, it can later be a mode of communication directed specifically toward the mother. The development of noncrying modes of communication, as well as a decline in crying, is associated with maternal responsiveness to infant signals. The findings are discussed in an evolutionary context, and with reference to the popular belief that to respond to his cries "spoils" a baby.

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