Posture and gaze in early mother-infant communication: Synchronization of developmental trajectories

Alan Fogel, Daniel S. Messinger, K. Laurie Dickson, Hui Chin Hsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Weekly laboratory observations of free play for 13 middle-income mother-infant dyads, from 1 to 6 months of age, were used to study the synchronization of developmental trajectories between infant postural position and gaze direction. Mothers sat in a straight-backed chair while holding infants on their laps and were free to adjust the infant's posture. Postural position was coded as upright (supported sitting or standing on the mother's lap) or other (lying, cradling, or being held close to mother). Gaze was coded as either at mother's face or away. The age of onset of visually guided reaching was also assessed. Results show that there were longer durations of gazing away when the infant was in an upright position. Over the 5 month period of observation, the dyads began with a pattern of non-upright positions accompanied by gaze at mother. Contrary to previous predictions, the developmental shift in the first 6 months from exclusive gazing at mother's face to gazing away from mother was not synchronized with the development of reaching, but rather with changes in the infant's posture to more upright positions. The possible role of postural position in fostering positive emotional communication is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-332
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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