Infants in Groups: a paradigm for the study of early social experience

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Abstract

This paper reports on a two‐stage, case‐based analysis of infant sociability in infant‐only trios to illustrate how findings made using this approach extend our theoretical understanding of early intersubjectivity. Studying infant groups allows us to address three kinds of emerging theoretical argument: (1) that babies are born with a 'general relational capacity' which complements or even founds the more specific 'dyadic program' that generates attachments; (2) that infants' communication with peers is the best route to understanding the shared meanings that inform language acquisition, and (3) that the reconceptualisation of 'nonbasic' emotions requires we discover whether babies are communicatively competent to elaborate context‐specific meanings over time. The materials we use to illustrate this two‐stage approach show infants manifest core characteristics of group‐communication in the second six months of life, in particular the capacity to be involved with more than one person at a time and for relational encounters to shift behavioral significances for the infants as a product of group interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-221
Number of pages25
JournalAnnual Editions: Human Development
Volume46
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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