Maternal behavior and infant attention

Katharine R. Lawson, Roseanne Parrinello, Holly A. Ruff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to investigate associations between maternal behavior and 12-month-old infants' attention to objects during a period of joint play. Both full terms (n = 90) and preterms (n = 59) were presented with a set of toys for independent play; their mothers then joined them for play with the same toys. No differences between full-term and preterm infants were found. Focused exploration of the objects was higher and active inattention was lower during the interaction than during independent play. The children were divided into high-, average-, and low-attending groups on the basis of their independent focused attention and active inattention; interaction with the mother resulted in the greatest increases in focused attention and greatest decreases in active inattention for the low attenders. Multiple-regression analyses showed that focused attention and active inattention during the interaction were related to both the child's spontaneous tendency to be attentive and specific maternal behaviors and characteristics. Further analyses suggest that certain maternal measures were associated with decreases in active inattention and increases in pas- sive looking, whereas other maternal measures were associated with increases in the more focused exploration of the objects by the child.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-229
Number of pages21
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1992


  • attention
  • exploration
  • inattention
  • maternal activity
  • mother-child interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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