A Study of Cognitive (Attentional Focus) and Mentalizing Comments of Maternal Speech: Relationship to Infant Birth-Order (pp. 145-189)
Authors: Theano Kokkinaki and V. G. S. Vasdekis
Abstract: This exploratory longitudinal and naturalistic study aims to investigate the way in which the position of the infant in the family - in regard to birth order – is related to maternal cognitive (attentional focus) and mental state comments of young infants in spontaneous mother-infant interactions. Towards this aim, four Greek-speaking first-born-infant- and four second-born-infant-mother dyads (N = 16) were video-recorded in the course of spontaneous dyadic interactions at home from the 2nd to the 6th month of infants’ life. Within well-defined units and subunits of analysis, maternal infant-directed speech was classified into focus categories and thematic sequences within each of them. Micro-analysis provided evidence of structural variations, hierarchical similarities and quantitative differences in the attentional focus and the mind-related comments of mothers to their first-born and second-born infants which are summarized as follows: a) maternal speech to first-born infants was structured in more intense – more frequent and of shorter duration- temporal cycles compared to maternal speech to second borns; b) in both interactions of mothers with their first-born and second-born infants infant- and dyad-focus thematic sequences predominated over mother-, other- or no-focus thematic sequence and infant internal state, particularly infant attention and emotion, prevailed over the rest mind-related comments. Mothers of second born infants addressed to them more infant, dyad-, mother- and other-focused thematic sequences compared to mothers of firstborn infants who engaged more frequently in no-focus expressions (non-speech sounds, vocal and verbal games). Mothers of second-born infants referred to infant internal state (infant attention, desire and communicative abilities), ‘searched for meaning’ in infant vocalizations in proto conversations and ‘shared’ their expressions with them (infants) more than mothers of first-born infants. No significant difference was found for maternal references to infant emotion. Mothers of first-born infants prompted them to action and responded to their body movements more often than mothers of second borns; and c) we evidenced significant birth-order-related variations of infant age-related changes of thematic sequences, non-speech sounds, infant internal state thematic sequences as a total and according to infant attention and emotion. The results will be discussed in the frame of the Theory of Innate Intersubjectivity.