The Development of Joint Attention within Parent-infant Interaction

The development of children’s thinking and successful participation in healthy social interaction depends on their ability to share attention with others. Called joint attention, this ability begins to emerge by a child’s first birthday and enables them to learn about people, language and ways of thinking. Infants in whom this developmental milestone is delayed are often from at-risk groups, such as low birth weight children. The delay is also associated with autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and language impairment. By studying observable aspects of joint attention, Timothy Racine is testing whether the parent-child relationship affects its development. In particular, he aims to identify the age at which infants begin to direct others’ attention with pointing gestures, and whether parents with a supportive style of interacting have infants who point meaningfully at an earlier age. Results from the study could help in the education and training of parents on appropriate ways of establishing joint attention in both normally developing and at-risk infants.