The present study investigated the touching behaviors of 4-month-old infants of depressed and non-depressed mothers during the still-face (SF; maternal emotional unavailability) and separation (SP; maternal physical unavailability) procedures. Forty-one dyads participated in the present study; dyads were from low SES backgrounds and they exhibited poor relationship qualities (e.g. poor maternal sensitivity, low infant responsiveness); thus, they were considered at-risk. Results indicated that infants exhibited more patting and pulling when mothers were unavailable during the SF and SP procedures. Moreover, depression affected infants' tactile behaviors: infants of depressed mothers used more reactive types of touch (i.e. active touching behaviors, such as grab, pat, pull) than infants of non-depressed mothers during emotional and physical unavailability, suggesting greater activity levels in infants of depressed mothers. Negative relationship indicators, such as maternal intrusiveness and hostility, predicted soothing/regulatory (i.e. nurturing) and reactive/regulatory types of touch, even after controlling for maternal depression. Taken together, these results underscore the importance of touch for infant communication and regulation during early social interactions.
- Infant touch
- Maternal depression
- Maternal emotional availability
- Mother-infant interactions
- Still-face and separation procedures
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology