Concurrent associations between maternal behaviours and infant communication within a cohort of women and their infants experiencing adversity Academic Article uri icon


  • PURPOSE:Evidence suggests that children living in adversity are at greater risk of poorer language than their peers with the quality of parental interactions potentially mediating this association. Studies typically measure the mediatory impact of generic interaction styles making it difficult to discern which particular aspects of the interaction are facilitating language. This study aims to bridge this gap by identifying specific maternal behaviours associated with concurrent infant communication, in a cohort of 12-month old infants and their mothers experiencing adversity. METHOD:A total of 249 mother-infant free-play videos were collected from women experiencing adversity in Victoria and Tasmania, Australia. From those videos, specific maternal behaviours, infant communication acts and the interaction quality were coded. RESULT:Maternal verbal imitations uniquely predicted concurrent use of infant vocalisations, total words and unique words. Furthermore, the more fluent and connected the mother-infant dyad, the stronger the association between imitations and all three infant measures. CONCLUSION:Frequent use of maternal imitations, within highly connected mother-infant dyads, may help mediate the impact of adversity on early communication. This information is important for early years professionals working with at-risk populations in augmenting current knowledge of risk and protective factors related to early language.

publication date

  • 2018