Mother-infant relationship in the first year of life.

  • Leo van Lier
  • Published 1988 in Acta paediatrica Scandinavica. Supplement


The development of interactive patterns in the first year of life has been studied in healthy mother--baby pairs and in infants whose mothers have psychiatric or psycho-social problems which interfere with their contact with the child. During the first 2-3 months a relationship develops in healthy mother--baby pairs characterized by an intimate interchange of signals and responses between mother and infant. The baby's inborn capacity of imitation and regulation of visual/auditive stimulation gradually is patterned and supported by the mother's empathetic response. 2-3 months old the baby has developed a basic pattern of social relating. This development is not seen if the mother cannot adapt to and support the baby's signals. In cases with simple social privation the baby seems not to "know" how to use social contact. In cases with active failure in the mother's response a pattern of emotional withdrawal develops where the baby avoids eye contact, does not engage in vocal dialogue and is easily upset when offered social contact. During the next months motor development enables the baby to reach out for things in the outer world: rattles, mother's face, own feet etc. A beginning sense of self and not-self develops. The baby expects the mother to guess and fulfil it's wishes and still the mother adapts to and supports the baby's expanding capacities and needs. In contrast the baby with a non-adapting mother may, or may not show a normal interest in reaching out for inanimate things. But the social withdrawal hinders the infant in reaching out for the mother's face and body. A limited interest in handling, mouthing and examining objects is often seen, lending the baby's activities an avital and stereotype quality. The baby does not expect the mother to guess and fulfil it's wishes. It's experience with self and not-self is narrowed and deprived of the rich and varied social interaction of the healthy mother--baby pairs. At 10-12 months the infants are able to move around trying to handle and examine everything within their range. At this age healthy infants are able to sense that there exist other wills and minds than their own. The mother can encourage or stop the child by verbal and body signals. The child may compromise or protest and you will sense it's personality.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Cite this paper

@article{Lier1988MotherinfantRI, title={Mother-infant relationship in the first year of life.}, author={Leo van Lier}, journal={Acta paediatrica Scandinavica. Supplement}, year={1988}, volume={344}, pages={31-42} }