Adolescent mothers have greater difficulty bonding with their baby; their infants are more likely to be difficult and their parenting is less sensitive, responsive, or positive. Research suggests that enhanced physical contact, or infant carrying, can promote positive mother-infant interactions. Adolescent mothers, randomly assigned to two conditions at 2-4 weeks' post-partum: intervention (n=16; used an infant carrier, one hour daily for 3 months) and control (n=17; read to their baby), completed the Still-Face Paradigm (SFP) at 7-months. Infants in the intervention condition, compared to the control condition, showed the classic SF effect: heightened negative engagement and a reduction of social engagement during the SF phase. Their mothers spent more time in social positive engagement and exaggerated positive engagement. Infants in the control condition spent less time in social monitoring overall and more time in object/environment engagement during the SF phase. Their mothers were more likely to “give up” in the reunion phase: less social positive/exaggerated social positive engagement and more withdrawn behavior. This novel study provides preliminary evidence that infant carrying influences infants' early representations for their adolescent mothers' responsiveness. Infant carrying is a culturally embedded practice that promotes healthy social and emotional development among infants of adolescent mothers. Highlights: Adolescent mothers were randomly assigned to an intervention (babywearing) and a control condition (reading) and completed the Still-Face paradigm (i.e., a video-taped interaction task) when infants were 7 months old. Mothers in the intervention condition spent more time in social positive/exaggerated positive engagement and their infants showed the classic SF effect: heightened negative engagement and reduced social engagement during the SF phase. The practice of babywearing has the potential to reach other populations of mothers who experience difficulty bonding with their infant. Infant carrying is a cost-effective and culturally relevant practice that has the potential to reduce the risk for infant abuse and neglect.
- maternal sensitivity
- mother–infant relationship
- parenting interventions
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology