18 Dyadic microanalysis of mother – infant communication informs clinical practice


Our research began in the 1960s with the study of adult dialogue by Joseph Jaffe and Stanley Feldstein. Our interest was in features of speech rhythms relevant to the communication of mood, the phenomenon of empathy, and the breakdown of effective dialogue. Speech rhythms include turn-taking, pausing and interrupting. By the late 1960s, when Daniel Stern and Beatrice Beebe joined the team, our interests widened to the study of mother–infant dialogues. Since then, the analysis of speech rhythms has been expanded to analogous rhythms of many modalities (gaze, vocal quality, facial expression, touching, head movement, and posture). This dyadic “microanalysis” research looks at the joint behaviors of two people. It operates like a microscope, identifying in detail the instant-by-instant interactive events which are so fast and subtle that they are usually lost to the naked eye (ear), and operate largely out of awareness. The analysis of different modalities of communication operates like the stains lighting up different coexisting structures under the microscope. Using this approach we discovered that maternal depression affected facial expression and gaze direction in opposite ways: mothers and infants were vigilant to each other’s facial shifts, but withdrawn from monitoring each other’s visual availability, as we describe in detail below. The discoveries made with this research have tremendous implications for early intervention in mother–infant communication disturbances. Both embodying the unusual combination of researcher and psychoanalyst, Beebe and Jaffe are intensely concerned with translating research findings into clinical interventions. Beebe offers a videoassisted therapeutic consultation to mother–infant pairs presenting for treatment, observing them in the same split-screen, videotaping format used for research pairs, and using research findings to guide treatment interventions. A therapeutic viewing of the videotape with the parent is the springboard for the treatment. We will illustrate this approach with

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Jaffe200718DM, title={18 Dyadic microanalysis of mother – infant communication informs clinical practice}, author={Joseph Jaffe}, year={2007} }