Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

the field of infant research

Close study of infant development has provided understanding of the innate
capacities of infants and the quality of care needed to promote healthy
development. Infant research examines the ability of infants to both perceive and
communicate affective states, to differentiate their primary carer from others and to interact with them. Carers and infants establish patterns of interaction in
which the carer modulates the infant’s overall level of neurophysiological
arousal. Providing optimal infant care requires the caregiver to maintain
appropriate levels of arousal in the infant and be responsive to the infant’s
expressions of his internal state. The infant experiences his carer as available,
appropriately and consistently responsive, and from these repeated experiences
internalises and gradually develops the ability to regulate his own emotional
responses and level of arousal. Several areas of infant competence have been
described in the field of infant research:
Programmed for social interaction—The infant shows preferential attention
to the human face and voice, and can imitate facial expressions. The infant
responds to changes in his carer’s emotional state. The infant shows unease,
aversion to ‘mistimed communications’ or to non-response.
Ability to communicate emotional experience—Infants show a range of
emotional expressions from birth that can be recognised by their carers.
Proto-conversation—Infants and carers develop proto-conversations by eight
weeks that embody the characteristics of speech, with turn-taking, modulation
of attention and matching or mirroring of gesture and vocalisations.
Social and affective interaction—Infants and carers communicate and play by
three months. Infants use motor skills and communication skills to engage their
carer in joint attention and communications about objects.
Self-regulation—Infants move towards self-development and self-regulation of
affect, over time being able to manage their own internal state through repeated
experiences of external support from the primary caregiver to assist in
managing feelings and arousal.

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