Joint Attention: Its Origins and Role in Development

By Chris Moore; Philip J. Dunham | Go to book overview

Chapter 12
Factors Influencing Joint Attention Between Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Adolescent Mothers and Their Infants

C. Cybele Raver
Cornell University

Bonnie J. Leadbeater
Yale University

Sharing experience in joint activity requires what Bowlby ( 1969) calls a "goalcorrected" partnership in which each member is "prepared, when necessary, to relinquish, or at least adjust, his or her own set goals to suit the other's" (p. 355). Infants' skills in negotiating bouts of joint visual attention may well be among the building blocks of these early social partnerships. Infants' ability to follow others' gaze to an object of interest represents a crucial transition from face-to-face engagement in early infancy to joint exploration of, and communication about, objects in the environment ( Tronick, Als, & Adamson, 1979). In establishing and maintaining joint gaze on an object, mother and infant continue the mutually regulated, pleasurable process of sharing experience begun in earlier face-to-face play ( Mundy, Kasari, & Sigman, 1992; Trevarthen & Hubley, 1978).

Although the establishment of joint attention in parent-child interaction requires coordinated effort on the part of both partners, research to date has focused primarily on the role of the child. Valuable work has elucidated the mechanisms that infants use to organize their spatial skills in pinpointing objects that hold others' interest ( Butterworth & Grover, 1988; Butterworth & Jarrett, 1991; Corkum & Moore, 1993; Scaife & Bruner, 1975). It has been established empirically that infants 10 to 24 months have the requisite skills for following their partners' gaze. The styles used by infants to coordinate their own gaze with maternal gaze in naturalistic interaction have been less investigated ( Hunter, McCarthy, MacTurk, & Vietze, 1987). Much also remains to be learned regarding mothers' roles in actively introducing objects as "topics" of joint attention. Factors that influence the ways that infants and mothers successfully coordinate

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