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The aim of the present research was to investigate the relationship between oxytocin and maternal affect attunement, as well as the role of affect attunement in the relationship between oxytocin and infant social engagement during early mother-infant interactions. Forty-three mother-infant dyads participated in the present study when infants were 4 months. They were observed during (1) a situation where no communication took place and (2) a natural interaction between mother and infant. During this procedure, three saliva samples from mothers and their infants were collected to determine their levels of oxytocin at different time points. Maternal affect attunement (maintaining attention, warm sensitivity) and infant interactive behaviors (gaze, positive, and negative affect) were coded during the natural interaction. Results indicated that overall maternal oxytocin functioning was negatively related to her warm sensitivity, while infant oxytocin reactivity together with maternal affect attunement were associated with infant positive social engagement with their mothers. Specifically, infant oxytocin reactivity was significantly related to their gazes at mother, but only for infants of highly attuned mothers. These results point to the complex role oxytocin plays in parent-infant interactions while emphasizing the need to analyze both overall oxytocin functioning as well as reactivity as different indices of human affiliative behavior.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Infant behavior & development
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