Attentional characteristics of infants and toddlers with Williams syndrome during triadic interactions

Dev Neuropsychol. 2003;23(1-2):243-68. doi: 10.1080/87565641.2003.9651894.


Two studies were conducted to consider the looking behavior of infants and toddlers with Williams syndrome (WS). In Study 1,the looking behavior of a 10-month-old girl with WS during play sessions with her mother and with a stranger was compared to that of 2 groups of infants who were developing normally (ND),1 matched for chronological age and the other for developmental age. The infant with WS spent more than twice as much time looking at her mother as the infants in either contrast group did. She also spent twice as much time looking at the stranger. In addition, during 78%of this time, her gaze at the stranger was coded as extremely intense. Looks of this intensity were virtually never made by the ND infants. In Study 2,the looking behavior of 31 individuals with WS ages 8 to 43 months during a genetics evaluation was compared to that of 319 control children in the same age range (242 with developmental delay due to causes other than WS).Twenty-three of the 25 participants with WS aged 33 months or younger demonstrated extended and intense looking at the geneticist. In contrast, none of the control participants looked extensively or intently at the geneticist. Findings are discussed in the context of previous research on arousal and focused attention during normal development and on temperament and personality of older children and adults with WS. It is argued that the unusual looking patterns evidenced by infants and toddlers with WS presage the unusual temperament and personality of older individuals with WS, and the possibility of a genetic basis for these behaviors is addressed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child Behavior
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Temperament*
  • Visual Perception*
  • Williams Syndrome / genetics
  • Williams Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Williams Syndrome / psychology*