Acoustic parameters of infant-directed singing in mothers of infants with down syndrome

Shannon de l'Etoile, Samarth Behura, Cengiz Zopluoglu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This study compared the acoustic parameters and degree of perceived warmth in two types of infant-directed (ID) songs − the lullaby and the playsong − between mothers of infants with Down syndrome (DS) and mothers of typically-developing (TD) infants. Participants included mothers of 15 DS infants and 15 TD infants between 3 and 9 months of age. Each mother's singing voice was digitally recorded while singing to her infant and subjected to feature extraction and data mining. Mothers of DS infants and TD infants sang both lullabies and playsongs with similar frequency. In comparison with mothers of TD infants, mothers of DS infants used a higher maximum pitch and more key changes during playsong. Mothers of DS infants also took more time to establish a rhythmic structure in their singing. These differences suggest mothers are sensitive to the attentional and arousal needs of their DS infants. Mothers of TD infants sang with a higher degree of perceived warmth which does not agree with previous observations of “forceful warmth” in mothers of DS infants. In comparison with lullaby, all mothers sang playsong with higher overall pitch and slower tempo. Playsongs were also distinguished by higher levels of spectral centroid properties related to emotional expressivity, as well as higher degrees of perceived warmth. These similarities help to define specific song types, and suggest that all mothers sing in an expressive manner that can modulate infant arousal, including mothers of DS infants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-160
Number of pages10
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • Infant self-regulation
  • Infant-directed singing
  • Infants with down syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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