Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Human Development and Family Studies

Department name when degree awarded

Family and Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

J. Craig Peery


J. Craig Peery


Twenty first-born infants age three to five months, nine males and eleven females, were observed and videotaped for five minutes with each parent, in order to explore touch and gaze in free-play parent-infant interactions. Gazing behaviors of parents and infants and mutual gazing were measured in vivo; touching behaviors were measured from the videotapes of each dyad. For each behavior, four measures were taken: percent of total time, average rate per minute, mean duration of the behavior, and mean duration of the intervals between behaviors. The results show that, on the average, parent touch and gaze were typical of parents at play with infants: frequent short touches and frequent long gazes. The infants look back at parents much less often, typical of infants whose parents are trying to get their attention. The data show unique response patterns depending on the sex of the infant and parent. Both mothers and fathers use touch with boys, but not girls, as an instrumental attention getting technique, touching more when the infant looks less often. Mothers show a more complex response than fathers, probably learned from their greater caretaking experience. Touching to girls is related only to the parent's own attention, seeming to be a more expressive response. Mothers, but not fathers, increase their gaze reciprocally with girls' gaze but not boys'. These unique relationships for mothers and fathers with sons and daughters nay be the beginnings of differential sex-typed socialization. Mothers and fathers of the sane infants show very different behaviors, often negatively correlated, indicating that they may have developed complementary relationships with their infants.