Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

The role of mothers in the social development of their infants' facial expressions.

Kamel, Hania S (1995) The role of mothers in the social development of their infants' facial expressions. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Download (11MB) | Preview


The present thesis addresses the role of maternal interpretations of infant facial expressions in the development of emotions. Emotion theories explain emotionality in terms of implicitly intra-individual processes resulting in serious conceptual and empirical limitations. In contrast, social constructionist theories reflect the inherently socio-cognitive nature of emotions and propose inter-individual processes to explain emotional development. Using the hitherto neglected perspective of interactional others, a social theory is developed which rejects the Cartesian dualism inherent in current theories of emotional development by assigning a central place to the perspective of caregivers in the development of emotions. An observational cross-sectional study examining the effect of age and context on mothers' perceptions of their infants was conducted. Twelve normal, primiparous, white, English, middle class mothers, aged between 25 and 35, were filmed interacting at home with their infants (aged 4-6 months (range 4;l-6;3), 7-9 months (range 7;0-9;l), and 10-12 months (range 10;1-11;3)). Mothers were asked to select and describe infant acts they found meaningful in a face to face play, a prohibitive, and a toy play condition. Facial expressions were coded using a standardised coding frame. Maternal interpretations of infant behaviour were collected and analysed. Two further experiments assessed differences between mothers' and observers' selections and interpretations of infant behaviour. Mothers' selections of infant facial expressions differed between age groups and situations. As infants got older, mothers selected fewer positive expressions in face to face play, more negative expressions in the prohibitive episode and more positive expressions in toy play. Differences in maternal interpretations, reflecting situational and age related specificity, were also found. While mothers perceived emotions and intentionality in infants of all ages, mothers of the oldest infants accompanied these attributions with descriptions of cognitive and communicative skills. A relationship between selected facial expressions and attributions of emotion states was found to be dependent on situational context. Mothers also differed from observers in both the number of meaningful acts they selected and the types of interpretations they made, demonstrating the divergence in perspective between caretakers as knowledgable participants in interaction and external observers. This thesis demonstrates the dynamics of caregivers' perceptions in expressive interaction and discusses the implications of these perceptions for understanding the process of emotional development.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Psychology, Developmental
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics