Objectives: To determine the effect of infant risk-status (HR or LR) and age (6 or 11 months) on the affective responses of the infants’ mothers.
Methods: Infant-mother dyads participated in a sequence of face-to-face interaction tasks (e.g., a non-specific interaction and peek-a-boo). The non-specific (NS) interaction occurred for 2 minutes and was followed by 1 minute of peek-a-boo (PAB). This paradigm was completed with a group of 6 and 11-month-old infants at HR and LR for autism. Mothers’ smiling behavior was coded using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS; Ekman, Friesen, & Hagar, 2002).
Results: A 2 (task) X 2 (risk-status) X 2 (infant age) repeated measures ANOVA analyzed the proportion of time mothers spent smiling. Results indicated that all mothers smiled more during PAB than NS interactions, F(1, 42) = 18.351, p = 0.001. Additionally, there was a near significant interaction of task, risk-status, and age, F(1, 42) = 3.551, p = 0.066. Follow-up ANOVAs indicated the following:
- 6-month-old infants: All mothers smiled significantly more during PAB than NS interaction, F(1, 24) = 7.006, p = 0.014. Mothers of HR infants smiled significantly less across the two tasks than mothers of LR infants, F(1, 24) = 4.778, p = 0.039.
- 11-month-old infants: Mothers of HR and LR infants smiled to a significantly different degree as a function of task, F(1, 18) = 5.582, p = 0.030. Mothers of 11-month-old, LR infants no longer exhibit a significant increase in smiling from a NS interaction to PAB (t(10) = -1.392, p = 0.197), however, mothers of HR infants continue to demonstrate the significant increase in smiling from a NS interaction to PAB (t(10) = -4.731, p = 0.001).
Conclusions: Mothers of HR infants appear to differ from mothers of LR infants in affective response during typical face-to-face interaction tasks and these differences shift as the infant ages. While both mother groups display more smiling during PAB than NS interaction, mothers of HR 6-month-olds exhibit less smiling behavior overall. As infants get older LR mothers begin to taper their smiling during face-to-face games, but HR mothers continue a smiling pattern characteristic of mothers who have much younger infants. It appears HR mothers may be scaffolding their infant’s behavior in a way LR mothers are not.