be correlated with attachment ratings of children with autism, although nonverbal requesting does appear to correlate with attachment in these children ( Capps, Sigman,& Mundy, 1994). Thus, although scant research may currently be brought to bear on this important issue, the data that exist are not inconsistent with the hypothesis that joint attention and attachment measures may provide independent but complimentary indices of risk for socioemotional disturbance in preschool children. We are currently examining this hypothesis in a longitudinal study of infants and toddlers who are at risk for the development of behavior disturbance.
In this chapter we have attempted to argue that the study and assessment of nonverbal communication skills development, especially in the second year of life, may be of considerable value for research on early socioemotional development. Several systems of assessment of nonverbal communication skills have been developed. However, all too often these assessments are considered only in conjunction with research on language development, or perhaps sociocognitive development. Nevertheless, both new and old research and theory suggest that nonverbal communication development, especially joint attention development, may reflect processes that are critical to adaptive and maladaptive socioemotional development in preschool children. To illustrate this point, we briefly described how Stern's( 1985) theory on early intersubjectivity and affective attunement between caregivers and toddlers may be related to the development of nonverbal communications skills. We have also described a sociornotivational model of joint attention development and extrapolated from this model the hypothesis that joint attention and attachment measures may be complimentary, but independent predictors of behavior development in preschool children. At the outset, however, we noted that the circumscribed views presented here did not do justice to the numerous possible connections between early nonverbal communication and subsequent socioemotional development in children. We hope this chapter serves to encourage others to begin to examine this potentially important linkage in early development.
The preparation of this chapter was supported by NIDCD Grant #00484.
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