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Three-Month-Old Infants' Reaction to Simulated Maternal Depression

Jeffrey F. Cohn and Edward Z. Tronick
Child Development
Vol. 54, No. 1 (Feb., 1983), pp. 185-193
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1129876
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1129876
Page Count: 9
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Three-Month-Old Infants' Reaction to Simulated Maternal Depression
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Abstract

To investigate the nature of the young infant's social competence, the effect of depressed maternal expression during face-to-face interaction was examined using an experimental analogue of maternal depression. Subjects were 12 female and 12 male infants, ages 96-110 days, and their mothers. 2 counter-balanced experimental treatments consisted of 3 min of normal maternal interaction and 3 min of simulated depressed interaction. A control treatment consisted of 2 3-min epochs of normal maternal interaction. Interactions were videotaped and infant behavior described on a 5-sec time base that maintained order of occurrence. Infants in the depressed condition structured their behavior differently and were more negative than infants in the normal condition. Infants in the depressed condition produced higher proportions of protest, wary, and brief positive. Infants in the depressed condition cycled among protest, wary, and look away. Infants in the normal condition cycled among monitor, brief positive, and play. In addition, differences in negativity were likely to continue briefly after mothers switched from depressed to normal interaction. The data indicate that infants have a specific, appropriate, negative reaction to simulated depression in their mothers. These results question formulations based on alternate hypotheses and suggest that the infant has communicative intent in its interactions.

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