A Systems View of Mother-Infant Face-to-Face Communication

Beatrice Beebe, Daniel S Messinger, Lorraine E. Bahrick, Amy Margolis, Karen A. Buck, Henian Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Scopus citations


Principles of a dynamic, dyadic systems view of mother-infant face-to-face communication, which considers self- and interactive processes in relation to one another, were tested. The process of interaction across time in a large low-risk community sample at infant age 4 months was examined. Split-screen videotape was coded on a 1-s time base for communication modalities of attention, affect, orientation, touch, and composite facial-visual engagement. Time-series approaches generated self- and interactive contingency estimates in each modality. Evidence supporting the following principles was obtained: (a) Significant moment-to-moment predictability within each partner (self-contingency) and between the partners (interactive contingency) characterizes mother-infant communication. (b) Interactive contingency is organized by a bidirectional, but asymmetrical, process: Maternal contingent coordination with infant is higher than infant contingent coordination with mother.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - Feb 15 2016



  • Dynamic systems
  • Mother-infant face-to-face communication
  • Self- and interactive contingency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies
  • Demography

Cite this

Beebe, B., Messinger, D. S., Bahrick, L. E., Margolis, A., Buck, K. A., & Chen, H. (Accepted/In press). A Systems View of Mother-Infant Face-to-Face Communication. Developmental Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0040085