The Mindedness of Maternal Touch: : An Investigation of Maternal Mind-Mindedness and Mother-Infant Touch Interactions
Filippetti, Maria Laura
Increasing evidence shows that maternal touch may promote emotion regulation in infants, however less is known about how parental higher-order social cognition abilities are translated into tactile, affect-regulatory behaviours towards their infants. During 10 min book-reading, mother-infant sessions when infants were 12 months old (N = 45), we investigated maternal mind-mindedness (MM), the social cognitive ability to understand an infant’s mental state, by coding the contingency of maternal verbal statements towards the infants’ needs and desires. We also rated spontaneous tactile interactions in terms of their emotional contingency. We found that frequent non-attuned mind-related comments were associated with touch behaviours that were not contingent with the infant’s emotions; ultimately discouraging affective tactile responses from the infant. However, comments that were more appropriate to infant’s mental states did not necessarily predict more emotionally-contingent tactile behaviours. These findings suggest that when parental high-order social cognitive abilities are compromised, they are also likely to translate into inappropriate, tactile attempts to regulate infant’s emotions.