Buggies influence parent-infant interaction

A groundbreaking study being presented on 22nd November at the British Psychological Society Scotland’s Annual Conference suggests the orientation of a baby’s buggy impacts on mother-baby interaction, infant stress levels and ultimately child development.

Contemporary design of buggies allows the baby to either face towards or away from their parent.

This study, funded by the Sutton Trust and conducted for Talk To Your Baby, the early language campaign of the National Literacy Trust, investigated the impact of this orientation on parent-infant interaction and infant stress levels.

Researchers monitored the mother-infant interaction of 20 mother-baby pairs during two separate journeys. On one journey, the baby faced toward the mother, and in the other they faced away.

Lead researcher, Dr Suzanne Zeedyk, from Dundee University, said: “We found that parents using the face-to-face orientation were twice as likely to be talking to their baby than when they used the facing-away orientation.”

“Both mothers and infants laughed more frequently using the face-to-face buggies. Only one baby out of the 20 laughed during the away-facing journey, while 10 laughed during the face-to-face journey. This is not a proportion that would be expected to occur by chance. And, parents rated the journeys using the face-toward buggies more enjoyable and comfortable.

“This has wide implications, as putting babies in buggies that face towards their parent may promote secure attachment, and ultimately the child’s development in domains such as emotion, cognition, and language.”

The results also provided tentative evidence that buggy orientation could affect infant stress. During the two journeys, infant heart rate and sleeping patterns were assessed. Results showed that heart rates were slightly lower during face-to-face journeys, and that infants were also more likely to fall asleep during that journey. Both may be an indicator of stress levels.

Dr Suzanne Zeedyk concluded: “We know how important social interaction during the early years is for children’s brain development. If it is the case that babies are spending significant amounts of time in a buggy that makes it difficult for them to communicate with parents, and that they may find stressful, then this is likely to impact negatively on their development.

These pilot findings suggest it is important that larger scale, follow-up work is conducted in this area.

Source: British Psychological Society, UK

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