Depressed mothers' touching increases infants' positive affect and attention in still-face interactions

Child Dev. 1996 Aug;67(4):1780-92.


The effects of depressed mothers' touching on their infants' behavior were investigated during the still-face situation. 48 depressed and nondepressed mothers and their 3-month-old infants were randomly assigned to control and experimental conditions. 4 successive 90-sec periods were implemented: (A) normal play, (B) still-face-no-touch, (C) still-face-with-touch, and (A) normal play. Depressed and nondepressed mothers were instructed and shown how to provide touch for their infants during the still-face-with-touch period. Different affective and attentive responses of the infants of depressed versus the infants of nondepressed mothers were observed. Infants of depressed mothers showed more positive affect (smiles and vocalizations) and gazed more at their mothers' hands during the still-face-with-touch period than the infants of nondepressed mothers, who grimaced, cried, and gazed away from their mothers' faces more often. The results suggest that by providing touch stimulation for their infants, the depressed mothers can increase infant positive affect and attention and, in this way, compensate for negative effects often resulting from their typical lack of affectivity (flat facial and vocal expressions) during interactions.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Attention*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Observer Variation
  • Touch*
  • Verbal Behavior
  • Visual Perception*