Key Features Of First Relationships And Their Importance To Infant Development

2267 words - 9 pages

Key Features of First Relationships and Their Importance to Infant Development

Human infants rely on other people for their survival. It was once
believed that someone to provide food and shelter was enough. However,
Rutter (1981, cited in Oates, 1994) has shown that this basic
requirement will not guarantee that an infant will thrive. Studies of
infants raised in orphanages show that physical care, such as warmth
and food is not enough and that the relationships an infant has with
caregivers is of equal importance in aiding development and survival.
Many cultures have differing infant rearing practices however, this
need for relationships and well as physical care is universal, whether
this care comes from the mother, grandparents or child minders.

This essay will first define some of the key features of infants first
relationships giving the importance of each of these features in the
psychological development of the infants. Then it will show how these
features can be linked to some of the theories of child development.

One of the main key features of infant – caregiver’s relationships is
the early development of interactions. One form of interaction,
meshing, is so called because of the way the turn taking action
develops into a smooth conversation-like interaction. Meshing is
important in social interactions, for a relationship to run smoothly
the participant needs to be able to read the other person, knowing
when they should listen and when they can speak. Trevarthen (1993,
cited in Oakes, 1994) used the term co-regulation to describe this
turn taking and synchronisation, which occurs between the infant and
caregiver. The behaviour is seen as both verbal and non-verbal
communication, with eye contact and body movements adding to the
interactions so they build up like dialogues. Much of this meshing
takes place during periods of play between infant and carer as Kaye
and Fogel (1980, cited in Oakes, 1994) showed in their research. Here
early interaction assists the infant to develop from just reactive
interaction, only reacting when caregiver initiates interaction first,
to becoming proactive, by taking a more active role in initiating the

However, for this meshing to be able to take place there has to be an
opportunity for it to happen. Research has shown that all human
infants feed in a unique rhythm, which is apparent from birth. They
suck for a while, pause for a few seconds then resume sucking. During
the pause it has been found that the caregiver tends to talk or jiggle
the infant. Kaye and Brazelton (1971, cited in Oates, 1994) studied
this to find that if the caregiver jiggles the infant the infant tends
to take longer to resume sucking. However, the caregiver will
synchronise their jiggling behaviour so that a non-verbal

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