Ab Initio International | Contributions of Newborns to the Quality of Mother–Infant Interaction*

Raquel Costa and Barbara Figueiredo
School of Psychology, University of Minho, Campus de Gualtar,
4710-057 Braga, Portugal

There is solid empirical evidence to show that the quality of mother–infant interaction makes a significant contribution to infant developmental outcomes (e.g., Cohn & Tronick, 1983; Evans & Porter, 2009; Gunnar, 1998; Murray & Cooper, 1997; Schore, 2001). Because mothers and infants establish patterns of reciprocal interaction during the first three months of life (Crockenberg & Smith, 2002), and because both act on each other mutually and reciprocally, we can expect that both infant and maternal characteristics might contribute to the quality of the dyadic interaction (Slentz & Krogh, 2001). However, few studies have focused on the infant’s contribution to the quality of mother-infant interaction, and those that have, have looked at isolated, specific infant features such as on infant emotionality (e.g., van den Boom & Hoeksma, 1994), neonatal neurobehavior (e.g., Nugent et al., 1993), infant social withdrawal (e.g., Puura, Guedeney, Mantymaa, & Tamminen, 2007), and endocrine reactivity and recovery (e.g., Albers, Riksen-Walraven, Sweep, & de Weerth, 2008; Azar, Paquette, Zoccolillo, Baltzer, & Tremblay, 2007; Kaplan, Evans, & Monk, 2008; Kerbel, Mertesacker, & Pauli-Pott, 2004; Spangler, Schieche, Ilg, Maier, & Ackerman, 1994).

There is still a paucity of research examining both behavioral and physiological aspects of infant functioning and their association with the quality of mother–infant interaction. We therefore conducted a research study to look at the infant from a more global and broad perspective and examined the relationship between the infant’s behavioral and physiological features and the quality of mother–infant interaction. Three features of the infant were considered: neurobehavioral organization, social withdrawal behavior, and endocrine reactivity to acute stress.