- Recent work suggests that the early postnatal period represents an opportune time for positively influencing the mother-infant relationship. Recent failures of replicating the results of the early studies on mother-to-infant bonding raise questions, however, regarding how to best enhance maternal, and subsequently infant behavior. A critical analysis of this literature suggests that the process underlying the early contact experience has not been adequately examined. Indeed, contact between mother and infant immediately following parturition may not be as critical as the interactive acquaintance process that such contact initiates. The purpose of this study was to investigate this assumption, by employing a procedure aimed at enhancing maternal involvement which did not rely on early contact per se, but on early interaction.
To facilitate the perceptual learning which may be taking place during early interactions. The Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale was used to increase mothers' awareness of their newborns' individuality, complexity, and sociability. Sixteen control group mothers received a verbal description of their newborns' performance on the NBAS. Sixteen contrast group mothers watched the examiner administer the NBAS to their newborns. Sixteen experimental group mothers were guided through an interactive experience with their newborns, by their own eliciting of behaviors and reflexes culled from the NBAS. To assess the differential effects of these three enhancement strategies, mother-infant interaction was observed 1 month later at home, for a period of 1 hour that included bathtime for the baby. Maternal and infant behaviors were coded on a continuous 15-second time-sampling basis, using a 22-item checklist.
To reduce the likelihood of chance results, the 22 behaviors were clustered into five summary variables on the basis of statistical and conceptual considerations: Contingent Interaction, Embellished Involvement, Simple Attention, Basic Care, and Infant Behavior. The summary variables were subjected to a Treatment by Condition repeated-measures Analysis of Variance.
The results confirmed the predictions, in that the experimental treatment was the most effective in enhancing maternal behavior. Specifically, experimental mothers exhibited significantly more Embellished Involvement and engaged in significantly more Contingent Interaction than did the control treatment. The contrast group mothers, as based on the frequencies of their behaviors, were in between the experimental and control groups. The experimental treatment was not only successful, but more important, was effective in enhancing those aspects of mothering behavior most closely related to later competent functioning of infants. The results of this investigation thus indicate that providing mothers with an active experience of interacting with their newborns is more effective in enhancing early maternal involvement than are passive strategies which provide only auditory or visual illustrations of neonatal capacities.
- Dissertation Note:
- Ph.D. The Pennsylvania State University 1980.
- Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 41-10, Section: B, page: 3915.
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