This study documented developmental changes in the emotional aspects of infant’s attention to the mother’s face during face-to-face communication between birth and 3 months, across the key developmental transition from endogenous to exogenous smiling. 16 mother-infant dyads were videotaped weekly during a naturalistic face-to-face interaction. Six infant facial expressions identified using the Baby FACS coding system were found to co-occur at greater than chance level with Gaze At the Mother’s face revealing a coupling between emotion and attention. Analysis of the developmental trajectories of each expression for each dyad showed a change from the dominance of Simple Attention (without other emotion expressions) to the dominance of active and emotionally positive forms of attention to the mother toward the end of the 2nd month, supporting the hypothesis of a qualitative change in the relationship between attention and emotion known as the 2-month transition. The results support an “overlapping waves” model, rather than a stage model of developmental change. Findings from sequential analysis also showed developmental changes from a cycling between Gaze Elsewhere and Simple Attention to the Mother’s face in the early weeks, to a complex sequence of transitions between Concentrated Attention, Smile and Cooing Expressions nested into sequences of positive feedback between infant and mother behavior during the second and the third months. This indicates that the relationship between receptive and approaching patterns of infant attention and emotion cannot be considered independently of maternal behavior.
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