Touching behaviors of infants of depressed mothers during normal and perturbed interactions

Robin J. Moszkowski, Dale M. Stack, Nadine Girouard, Tiffany M. Field, Maria Hernandez-Reif, Miguel Diego

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-194
Number of pages12
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009


  • Infant touch
  • Maternal depression
  • Maternal emotional availability
  • Mother-infant interactions
  • Still-face and separation procedures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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