Preverbal Communication and Attachment: Comparative Views
Hanuš Papoušek Mechthild Papoušek Stephen J. Suomi Charles W. Rahn
Preverbal communication has gained relatively little attention in attachment research, although a better understanding of preverbal communication is essential for the interpretation of both the ontogeny and the evolution of attachment processes. Comparative studies have revealed precursors of human speech in the animal world and showed the uniqueness of speech acquisition in a new light.
Microanalytic studies of human mother-infant interactions have detected intuitive tendencies in parental behaviors which seem to have evolved to facilitate speech acquisition as an important means of biological adaptation in humans. Modifications in parental speech addressed to infants represent more than mere affective expressions: they mediate the first categorical messages in parent-infant dialogues and thus contribute to the development of integrative and communicative capacities in infants.
New findings on preverbal communication make us aware of dead-ends in onesided interpretations of attachment and point out the problem of intrinsic motivation as one of the relevant topics for future research.
In this chapter, we consider how relevant the study of preverbal communication may be for the interpretation of parent-infant attachment. To date, two basic approaches have nourished interests in preverbal communication: antropocentric aspects related to the significance of human preverbal communication for the acquisition of speech during otogeny and zoocentric aspects concerning continuities and differences among species and the evolution of communication. Both kinds of approaches have proved useful for organization and interpretation of a vast amount of descriptive data.
From the bird's eye view of general systems theory, some form of communica-