Infant Behav Dev. 2016 Aug;44:110-20. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2016.06.009. Epub 2016 Jun 27.
Touch between mother and infant plays an important role in development starting from birth. Cross-cultural differences surrounding rearing practices have an influence on parent-infant interaction, including types of touch used and the development of emotional regulation. This study was designed to investigate maternal touch and infant emotional regulation in infant-mother dyads from Ecuador (n=25) and Hispanic dyads from the United States (US) (n=26). Mothers and their 4-month-old full-term infants participated in the Still Face Paradigm. Second-by-second coding of maternal touch and infant affect was completed. Overall the analyses showed that Ecuadorian mothers used more nurturing and accompaniment touch and less attention seeking touch than US Hispanic mothers during the pre-stressor (baseline) episode. Lagged multilevel models were used to investigate the effect of the different types of touch on infant emotional regulation in the groups for the episodes. The data suggest that playful touch had a significant increase in infant affect, whereas accompaniment and attention-seeking touch had a significant decrease in infant affect. Overall, this study provides support for the role of touch in mother-infant synchronicity in relation to infant’s emotional regulation. Identifying touch that is more calming is important to foster emotional regulation in infancy, which can have important implications for development.