Face-to-FaceTime: Mother-infant interaction in the context of learning a new motor skill

Taylor N. Evans & Jalyssa Matos, Dr. Sarah E. Berger, Psychology Department, City University of New York - College of Staten Island 10314

Parents shape opportunities for motor skill acquisition, including when and how skills are learned. Skills, such as stair descent, require supervision and instruction because consequences for falling could be dire. Approximately 93,000 children younger than five are injured on stairs annually. The safest way for infants to descend is to back down, which is challenging as it requires infants to face away from the goal (the floor). We questioned whether parents spontaneously teach this counterintuitive, but safe, behavior. Our objectives were to explore the kinds of strategies parents used to teach infants this challenging motor task and to examine real-time relations between parent teaching strategies and infant learning behaviors.

Using video-conferencing technology, we recorded parents teaching their infants to descend stairs for 10 minutes in their homes. Parents were instructed to teach descent as they normally would while ensuring infants’ safety. To date, 24 infant-parent dyads participated (mean infant age = 14.63 months; mean parent age = 35 years). Behaviors were coded from video. Parents’ instructions included positioning infants’ limbs, using toys as encouragement, spotting, gesturing, modeling, and verbal instruction and encouragement. Infants’ behaviors included scooting, backing, sliding, walking, holding banister or adult, and reaching for help. 

We plan to conduct both a hierarchical cluster analysis to reveal teaching profiles and a sequential analysis of the relation between parent teaching style and infant motor behaviors. We expect four clusters, which are supported by preliminary analyses: (1) parents took a hands-off approach to supervision without offering specific instruction; (2) parents used both hands-on support and verbal feedback; (3) parents instructed only verbally; and (4) parents were only hands-on. We also expected parents to tailor teaching to toddlers’ skill level by reacting in real time to infant’s abilities. Preliminary analyses show parents mainly respond to infants’ locomotor attempts with verbal instruction. 

Additional Abstract Information

Presenters: Taylor Evans, Jalyssa Matos

Institution: University of Washington, Seattle

Type: Poster

Subject: Psychology

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 11
Date/Time: Wed 3:00pm-4:00pm
Session Number: 7098