Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

An Intersubjective Developmental Perspective on Interactions between Deaf and Hearing Mothers and Their Deaf Infants

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

An Intersubjective Developmental Perspective on Interactions between Deaf and Hearing Mothers and Their Deaf Infants

Article excerpt

MOST RESEARCH INTO INTERACTIONS between mothers and their infants with hearing impairments focuses on mothers' and infants' behaviors separately, speculating about the interplay among these behaviors and their effects on child development. In the present article, an intersubjective developmental theory focusing on the development of the "intenvorld" between deaf and hearing mothers and their deaf infants is used to integrate and interpret the seemingly incoherent research on early motherdeaf child interaction. Inspired by Stern's work (e.g., Stern, 1985), the intersubjective developmental theory distinguishes four stages in the development of intersubjectivity: emerging (birth-2 months), physical (28 months), existential (8-13 months), and symbolic (13 months and older), each characterized by a different type of mother-infant interaction. The integration of research findings on early mother-deaf child interaction into these four developmental stages offers new perspectives that can advance research and resolve certain early-intervention issues.

In its short history, early childhood education has undergone an ideological shift from a child-centered and deficit-based approach to a familycentered and resource-based approach (Bodner-Johnson, Hafer, Sass-Lehrer, & Gatty, 2000). In the course of this ideological shift, parent-child interactions became increasingly important. The emphasis on the importance of the early interaction context to the development of the de;if child confronted the providers of early childhood education with a challenging question: What aspects of parentchild interaction do we have to focus on in early education? To answer this question, we can appeal to a vast amount of research, mostly focused on the interaction between hearing mothers and their young deaf or hard of hearing children on the one hand, and more recently the interaction between deaf mothers and their deaf or hard of hearing children on the other hand. Despite this extensive body of research, we notice the lack of a comprehensive developmental theory of early parent-child interaction. Such a theory could lead to integration of the research data, which seems incoherent and even conflicting.

Research Review

Earlier studies comparing the interaction between hearing mothers and their deaf or hard of hearing children, as opposed to these mothers' interactions with their hearing children, indicate the development of a controlling interaction dynamic, especially in the period when the child is 18 to 24 months old. During the period, the child's spoken language usually develops in such a way that it occupies a significant place in the mother-child communication (Cross, Johnson-Morris, & Nienhuys, 1980). Compared to the mother-child interactions of hearing peers at that age, the mother-child interactions of deaf and hard of hearing children are distinguished by a reciprocal decrease in comprehension (Leclerberg & Mobley, 1990; MeadowOrlans & Steinberg, 1993). Children who are deaf or hard of hearing grasp their mother's intentions less and do not initiate very much (Lederberg & Mobley, 1990; Meadow-Orlans & Steinberg, 1993; Power, Wood, Wood, & Mac Dougall, 1990).

Past research findings also suggest that these problems of communication involve an interaction dynamic characterized by use of a controlling interaction style by mothers and by decreasing participation by children. Hearing mothers of children who are deaf or hard of hearing seem to be more active and dominant compared to mothers of these children's hearing peers (Lederberg & Mobley, 1990; Nienhuys, Cross, & Horsborough, 1984; Wedell-Monnig & Lumley, 1980). Hearing mothers of children who are deaf or hard of hearing adapt their language and interaction styles to their child's language skills or to their perception of their child's language skills (Hughes, 1983; Matey & Kretchmer, 1985, Nienhuys, et al, 1984; Tanksley, 1993). …

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