Two -way direction of influence in mother-infant interaction as denoted by concurrent reciprocal learning processes

Yasmin LaRocca, Florida International University


This series of 5 single-subject studies used the operant conditioning paradigm to investigate, within the two-way influence process, how (a) contingent infant attention can reinforce maternal verbal behaviors during a period of mother-infant interaction and under subsequent experimental manipulation. Differential reinforcement was used to determine if it is possible that an infant attending to the mother (denoted by head-turns towards the image of the mother plus eye contact) increases (reinforces) the mother's verbal response (to a cue from the infant) upon which the infant behavior is contingent. There was also (b) an evaluation during the contrived parent-infant interaction for concurrent operant learning of infant vocal behavior via contingent verbal responding (reinforcement) implemented by the mother. Further, it was noted (c) whether or not the mother reported being aware that her responses were influenced by the infant's behavior. Findings showed: the operant conditioning of the maternal verbal behaviors were reinforced by contingent infant attention; and the operant conditioning of infant vocalizations was reinforced by contingent maternal verbal behaviors. No parent reported (1) being aware of the increase in their verbal response reinforced during operant conditioning of parental behavior nor a decrease in those responses during the DRA reversal phase, or (2) noticing a contingency between infant's and mother's response. By binomial 1-tail tests, the verbal-behavior patterns of the 5 mothers were conditioned by infant reinforcement (p < 0.02) and, concurrently, the vocal-response patterns of the 5 infants were conditioned by maternal reinforcement (p < 0.02). A program of systematic empirical research on the determinants of concurrent conditioning within mother-child interaction may provide a way to evaluate the differential effectiveness of interventions aimed at improving parent-child interactions. The work conducted in the present study is one step in this direction.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

LaRocca, Yasmin, "Two -way direction of influence in mother-infant interaction as denoted by concurrent reciprocal learning processes" (2001). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3032989.