Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Joseph C. LaVoie

Second Advisor

C. Raymond Millimet

Third Advisor

Carol R. Angle


Mothers, fathers, and their 8-month old infants were observed at home in a study of the dyadic and triadic interaction processes. The subjects consisted of 20 white, middle- class first-born infants and their parents, whose interactive behaviors were observed in a series of three home visits. The observed infant behaviors of interest were vocalizing, looking, smiling, touching, reaching, 3" proximity, laughing, and crying to the parent, as well as responding to the observer. Infants were tested for proximity seeking and selective responding to ascertain level of attachment. Recorded parental behaviors directed at the infant consisted of vocalizing, looking, smiling, holding, physical stimulation, giving objects and punishment. Measures of parental teaching strategy and holding styles were also included.

Interactional analysis revealed that female infants behaved in a consistent manner toward both mother and father in both the dyad and triad settings whereas male infants responded differently towards their parents and were more situation specific in their responses in the dyad and triad settings. Sex differences also were present among parents, with fathers displaying more playful behavior with the infant, while mothers assumed the caretaking role. The most salient behaviors in the interaction sequences were vocalizing, looking and smiling, indicating a high degree of attachment between infants and parents.

Analysis of the proximity seeking and selective responding data revealed that both male and female infants were equally attached to mothers and fathers. However, the attachment relationships differed. Fathers were more affiliative and playful than mothers, whereas mothers adopted the role of caretaker. Both mothers and fathers employed the teaching strategy of "modeling and verbalizing" when instructing their infants on a detour task.

In general the parent-infant relationship is characterized by reciprocity, with each participant influencing the others behavior. However, mother-infant and father-infant interaction sequences differ both qualitatively and quantitatively .

Included in

Psychology Commons