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versión On-line ISSN 1668-7027


ESPANOL, Silvia et al. Imitation and affect attunement in early social play. Interdisciplinaria [online]. 2018, vol.35, n.2, pp.291-305. ISSN 1668-7027.

This paper focuses on two specific matching activities of maternal behavior in early social play: imitation and affect attunement. Imitationis a pattern of frequent interaction between adult and baby, providing a pleasant experience to both participants. In that context, imitation is not only bi-directional, but it is the adult who imitates more frequently. Affect attunement is an intuitive and fleeting interaction pattern, through which the adult attunes to the baby's affective state. It is a matching activity, where the amodal features of the infant's behavior (intensity, temporal organization, spatial pattern and / or quantity) are reflected through a different conduct. Previous research indicates that during the first 6 months of the baby's life, the adult very often uses imitation as well as affect attunement for interacting (which involves performing a different behavior than the baby's in which the adult matches the intensity, temporal pattern, spatial pattern, and / or the amount of the child's original behavior). Maternal affect attunement events have been observed from 2 months of age, and the frequency ratio between affect attunement and maternal imitation has been observed to change in ontogenetic development: between the baby's 2nd and 6th months the adult's imitative activity occurs at higher rates; while in the second half of the first year of life, the relationship is reversed. This paper presents the results of a longitudinal case study on a mother-infant dyad, about maternal imitation and affect attunement behaviors in early social play situations between the 3rd and 6th months of the baby's life. According to Piaget's convention [year; month (day)], the baby's age was 00; 3(05) in the first session, and 00; 6 (28) in the last session. Every 15 days, a total of 8 sessions of the dyad's spontaneous interaction, were filmed in their home. From each session, the first 10 minutes of early social play were selected. With this material a video-sequence of early social play was generated to which an observational code with categories for maternal matching activity patterns (imitation and affect attunement) was applied. The percentage of each category's occurrence in each evolutionary period was calculated. The data obtained in this study indicate that maternal matching activities of imitation and affect attunement appear from the beginning of the studied period. These results confirm those previously obtained in other studies that show the early emergence of adult imitation and affect attunement behavioral patterns. The data also indicate that matching activities of imitation and affect attunement appear throughout the studied period with a frequency of two events perminute of early social play. These results partially confirm those previously obtained in other studies. The new information obtained in our study concerns the frequency of both reciprocity patterns, and the type of behavior of the mother and baby involved in these matching activities. Patterns of maternal affect attunement almost double those of imitation between the baby's 3rd and 6th months. It was also reported that most affect attunements were transmodal and that the mother used her voice as a privileged way to establish a behavioral match with her baby, either through imitation or affect attunement. The most frequent maternal imitations occurred in response to the baby's vocalizations, and affect attunements were caused mainly by the baby's movements. Without detracting from the dyad's intense vocal activity already registered in the field's literature, the high frequency of affect attunements in response to infant movement highlights a trait less noticed in previous research: the adult's mastery in reading the baby's body and movement.

Palabras clave : Reciprocity; Affect attunement; Imitation; Social play; Infancy.

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