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Mobile device use has become increasingly prevalent, yet its impact on infant development remains largely unknown. When parents use mobile devices in front of infants, the parent is physically present but most likely distracted and unresponsive. Research using the classic Still Face Paradigm (SFP) suggests that parental withdrawal and unresponsiveness may have negative consequences for children’s social-emotional development. In the present study, 50 infants aged 7.20 to 23.60 months (M = 15.40, SD = 4.74) and their mothers completed a modified SFP. The SFP consisted of three phases: free play (FP; parent and infant play and interact), still face (SF; parent withdraws attention and becomes unresponsive), and reunion (RU; parent resumes normal interaction). The modified SFP incorporated mobile device use in the SF phase. Parents reported on their typical mobile device use and infant temperament. Consistent with the standard SFP, infants showed more negative affect and less positive affect during SF versus FP. Infants also showed more toy engagement and more engagement with mother during FP versus SF and RU. Infants showed the most social bids during SF and more room exploration in SF than RU. More frequent reported mobile device use was associated with less room exploration and positive affect during SF, and less recovery (i.e. engagement with mother, room exploration positive affect) during RU, even when controlling for individual differences in temperament. Findings suggest that the SFP represents a promising theoretical framework for understanding the impact of parent’s mobile device use on infant social-emotional functioning and parent-infant interactions.
Developmental Science. 2018;21:e12610.  
 1 of 9
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
DOI: 10.1111/desc.12610
Digital disruption? Maternal mobile device use is related to
infant social- emotional functioning
Sarah Myruski1,2| Olga Gulyayeva2,4| Samantha Birk2| Koraly Pérez-Edgar3|
Kristin A. Buss3| Tracy A. Dennis-Tiwary1,2
1Department of Psychology, The Graduate
Center, The City University of New York, NY,
2Department of Psychology, Hunter
College, The City University of New York, NY,
3Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania
Department of Psychology, Hunter College,
The City University of New York, New York,
Funding Information
This research was made possible by grant
R21 MH103627 from the US Department of
Health and Human Services of the National
Institute of Mental Health
Mobile device use has become increasingly prevalent, yet its impact on infant develop-
ment remains largely unknown. When parents use mobile devices in front of infants,
the parent is physically present but most likely distracted and unresponsive. Research
using the classic Still Face Paradigm (SFP) suggests that parental withdrawal and unre-
opment. In the present study, 50 infants aged 7.20 to 23.60 months (M = 15.40, SD =
4.74) and their mothers completed a modified SFP. The SFP consisted of three phases:
free play (FP; parent and infant play and interact), still face (SF; parent withdraws at-
tention and becomes unresponsive), and reunion (RU; parent resumes normal interac-
tion). The modified SFP incorporated mobile device use in the SF phase. Parents
reported on their typical mobile device use and infant temperament. Consistent with
the standard SFP, infants showed more negative affect and less positive affect during
SF versus FP. Infants also showed more toy engagement and more engagement with
mother during FP versus SF and RU. Infants showed the most social bids during SF and
more room exploration in SF than RU. More frequent reported mobile device use was
associated with less room exploration and positive affect during SF, and less recovery
(i.e., engagement with mother, room exploration positive affect) during RU, even when
controlling for individual differences in temperament. Findings suggest that the SFP
represents a promising theoretical framework for understanding the impact of par-
ent’s mobile device use on infant social-emotional functioning and parent–infant
The traditional Still Face Paradigm (SFP) was modified to include
mobile device use, mimicking typical disruptions in parent–infant
interactions that may occur in daily life.
• Patterns of child behavior during the modified SFP mirrored those
of the traditional version, with infants showing the most distress
when mothers were disengaged.
• Greater habitual self-reported maternal mobile device use was as-
sociated with less infant recovery upon reunion.
• Findings provide support for the use of this modified paradigm as a
use on infant social-emotional functioning and parent–infant
The exponential increase in mobile device use has transformed not
only how we communicate remotely, but also how we engage in
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face- to- face interactions. Greater mobile device use in adults has
been associated with mental health problems, including anxiety (Reid
& Reid, 2007; Sapacz, Rockman, & Clark, 2016). However, little is
Frequent use of mobile devices during these interactions may de-
crease the quality of the social exchange by limiting opportunities for
the in- the- moment emotional feedback essential for emotion regula-
tion development (Field, 1994).
Infant behavior during dyadic interactions can be assessed using
the Still Face Paradigm (SFP; Braungart- Rieker et al., 2014; Fuertes,
Santos, Beeghly, & Tronick, 2006; Montirosso, Casini et al., 2015;
Montirosso, Provenzi et al., 2015; Provenzi, Borgatti, Menozzi, &
Montirosso,2015; Tronick,Als,Adamson, Wise, & Brazelton, 1978),
a classic laboratory behavioral task that examines infant responses to
social cues by a parent, consisting of three phases: Free Play (FP), Still
Face (SF), and Reunion (RU). The FP phase serves as a baseline for par-
the parent cease initiating or responding to social cues, while main-
taining eye gaze. Infant behavior during the SF phase is characterized
by decreased positive affect and gaze, and increased negative affect
regulation of infant emotion is absent during this phase, and when
bids for emotional reciprocation are not returned, the infant tends to
respond with distress and confusion (Montirosso, Casini et al., 2015;
Montirosso, Provenzi et al., 2015; Provenzi et al., 2015; Trevarthen,
1977). Finally, the RU phase provides an opportunity to repair subse-
quent mismatches in dyadic behavior by resuming interactive play. The
current study created a modified version of the classic SFP by employ-
ing a novel SF phase that introduced an ecologically valid mechanism
(mobile device use) that in effect may typically make parents unavail-
able to infants in daily life.
Infant behavior during the SFP is related to broader patterns of emo-
tional and social well- being, with greater positive affect and social bids
during the SF phase predicting secure attachment (Braungart- Rieker
etal., 2014; Fuertesetal., 2006; Kiser, Bates, Maslin, & Bayles, 1986;
Tronick, Ricks, & Cohn, 1982). In addition, infant individual differences
are related to their behavior during the SFP. For example, infants with
greater parent- rated temperamental negative affectivity showed re-
duced self- comforting during SF, potentially blunting regulation and re-
covery during RU (Braungart- Rieker, Garwood, Powers, & Notaro, 1998;
Mesman etal., 2009).In addition, Rothbart,Ziaie, and O’Boyle (1992)
found that self- regulatory behaviors during the task were related to in-
fant temperament. For example, activity level was negatively related to
oral self- soothing, fear scores were positively related to inhibited reach
and negatively related to approach, and attention disengagement was
negatively related to distress and positively related to positive affect.
Alargebodyofresearchhasalsoestablished theSFPas anana-
log for dyadic interactions between a depressed mother and her child
(Field, 1994; Field et al., 2007). In one study, the SF phase elicited less
distress in infants of depressed mothers compared to controls (Field
et al., 2007), potentially since this lack of emotional responsiveness
tends to be more habitual in day- to- day interactions for infants of de-
pressed mothers.
Several studies have modified components of the classic SFP.
In one study, modifications included mothers wearing masks while
maintaining eye contact and vocal interactions with their children, or
drinking from a bottle while maintaining eye contact and a neutral,
unresponsive face. Infants only displayed negative affect in response
to the traditional still face but not to the modified versions (Legerstee
& Markova, 2007), suggesting that infants may have interpreted the
mothers’unresponsivenessdifferentlywhentiedtoa novelbehavior.
In another study using a modified SF phase in which mothers played
with another infant, 6- month- old infants responded with heightened
sadness and interest that exceeded that of the traditional SFP (Hart,
tional SFP for use with toddlers by using the same three phases, but
placingtheminthe middleofalongermother–childfreeplaysession
(Weinberg, Beeghly, Olson, & Tronick, 2008). Toddlers showed similar
response patterns as infants, including the classic still face effect, but
also exhibited a wider array of responses, including vocalizations that
expressedaneffortto understandthe reasonforthemother’sunre-
sponsiveness. Thus, Weinberg and colleagues (2008) demonstrated
that the SFP can be used to examine behavior across a wider age range
than previously examined.
Similar to the key components of the classic SFP, parent mobile de-
vice use in front of infants causes the parents to be physically present
but putatively distracted and unresponsive. While mobile device use
is pervasive, only two studies to date have investigated how engage-
mentwith devicesmayinterferewithparent–childinteractions.One
study found that during a structured interaction task, maternal mobile
deviceusewas commonandassociatedwith fewermother–child in-
teractions (Radesky et al., 2015). In a descriptive observational study,
Radesky and colleagues (2014) found that parents who were deeply
absorbed in mobile device use during meal times tended to respond to
child bids for attention in insensitive or aggressive ways. However, no
study to date has examined how infant social and emotional behavior
is influenced by parental device use during dyadic interactions.
The first aim of the current study is to establish whether a mod-
ified SFP that incorporates maternal mobile device use could serve
as an analog to the original SFP, probing the impact of distracted or
unresponsive parents on child socioemotional behavior. Specifically,
given that mobile device use may mimic the social and emotional dis-
engagement present in the classic SFP, we predict that there will be
greater negative affect, and less positive affect, during the SF phase,
compared to the FPand RU phases. Also, we predict that dyadic
interaction will resume upon the RU phase, with infants showing
more engagement with mother in the RU phase compared to the SF
phase. Second, we aim to examine whether or not maternal device
use habits predict individual differences in infant behavior during
the SFP. Specifically, based on research using the SFP with infants
and depressed mothers (Field et al., 2007), we hypothesize that
habitual device use will be associated with less negative responses
from infants in the SF phase. That is, mothers who frequently use
devices, particularly in front of their family and infants, may habit-
ually show a lack of emotional responsiveness during interactions,
making their infant more accustomed to such disruptions and thus
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MYRUSKI et al.
eliciting less distress. Third, based on previous studies suggesting
that temperament may make infants more sensitive to the still face
disruption (Braungart- Rieker et al., 1998), we predicted that infants
high in negative affect would show greater disruption during the SF
and less re- engagement during the RU.
2.1 | Participants
Fifty infants (25 female) ages 7.20 to 23.60 months (M = 15.40, SD
= 4.74)1 participated in a modified SFP with their mothers. Forty-
five(90.0%)parents reported their infant’s ethnicity as White/Non-
Hispanic, three (6.0 %) reported Hispanic, three (6.0 %) reported
Asian/Pacific Islander, one (2.0 %) reported African-American, and
one(2.0%)reported NativeAmerican.Allinfantswerebornwithin2
weeks of their due date, reported no major health complications, and
were within normal birthweight ranges (M = 7.53 lb, SD = 1.14).
2.2 | Materials
2.2.1 | The modified SFP
Infants and their mothers participated in a modified SFP (Tronick
et al., 1978), which consisted of three phases: a free play phase (FP; 5
minutes), during which mother and infant interacted as they naturally
would during play time; a still face phase (SF; 2 minutes), during which
an alarm signaled the mother to pick up a mobile device (iPod touch),
interact only with the device, withdraw attention from their infant, be-
come unresponsive, and allow their infant to play on their own; and a
reunion phase (RU; 1 minute; signaled by a knock on a window), during
which the mothers stopped using the device and resumed interacting
with their infant as they did during FP. This modified SFP altered the
protocol of the original SFP by instructing mothers to use a mobile de-
vice during SF, allowing infants to move around freely instead of con-
fining them to a high chair, and allowing infants to have access to toys
throughout the task. We also varied the durations for each of the three
nal SFP is that we did not require mothers to maintain eye contact while
avoiding any communication with infants, which was a feature present
in the original SFP. These modifications were intended to increase the
ecological validity of the SFP by including features that more closely
mimicked scenarios that may arise in everyday life.
2.2.2 | Behavioral coding
The SFP was video- recorded and scored by three reliable raters.
Reliability was computed across 20% of participants using Cohen’s
kappa, and ranged from .71 to .98 (M = .85, SD = .03). Presence or ab-
scores were computed (number of epochs each behavior was per-
formed divided by total number of behaviors) for each phase (FP, SF,
RU) to account for individual differences between children who showed
generally higher and lower behavioral frequencies overall. Behaviors
performed by at least 25% of infants in at least one phase were selected
for analyses (negative affect, positive affect, toy engagement, engage-
ment with mother, social bid, room exploration; Table 1).2
2.2.3 | Questionnaires
Parents self- reported their mobile device use including habitual de-
viceuse frequency perday[(1) less than30 min; (2)1hour; (3) 1–3
[(1)do not use inpresence;(2) less than 30min;(3)1 hour; (4)1–3
hours;(5) 3–5hours],as wellasthe totalnumberof communication
types used (e. g. texting, email, etc.).
Participants also completed the Revised Infant Behavior
Questionnaire Short Form [IBQ- R; (Putnam, Helbig, Gartstein,
Rothbart, & Leerkes, 2014); n=11]ortheToddlerBehaviorAssessment
Questionnaire [TBAQ; (Goldsmith, 1996); n = 39].The IBQ-R is a
parent-reportmeasureofinfanttemperament forages4–12months
and consists of 91 items about infant behaviors in the past week on
a7-pointLikert-typescale.TheTBAQis aparent-reportmeasureof
about infant behaviors in the past month on a 7- point Likert- type
scale. To examine temperament across the entire age range of the cur-
rent sample, within- questionnaire z- scores were computed and IBQ- R
and TBAQ subscales were combined. Independent samples t tests
found no significant differences in temperament (z- scores) between
Infant behavior Description
Negative affect Negative expressions or
vocalizations; infant protesting,
or withdrawn. Must display
negative facial expressions.
Positive affect Displaying facial expressions of
joy particularly smiles or
vocalizations with a positive
Engagement with toy or other
Playing with the toys provided or
in room or playing with non- toy
objects, such as the chair.
Engagement with mother Playing with or engaging with the
parent (except if parent is
ignoring infant for the still face
phase, then it is a social bid).
Social bid Making an attempt to get the
attention of the parent
physically or vocally, either in a
negative way or positive or
neutral way.
Room exploration Playing with objects around the
room or exploring the room in
an attention- seeking manner or
in a manner designed to not
engage the caregiver.
TABLE1 Coding scheme for infant behaviors during the still face
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infantswhose parentscompletedthe infant (IBQ)ortoddler (TBAQ)
version of the questionnaire (ps > .10). Subscales represented on both
versions of the questionnaire that captured characteristics relevant to
behavior during the SFP were examined: activity level, approach/in-
terest, attentional control (duration and orienting from IBQ- R and ap-
propriateattentional allocationfromTBAQ),and negative affectivity
(higher order subscale consisting of fear, sadness, distress to limitation,
and falling reactivity).
2.3 | Procedure
This study was approved by the institutional review board of the
Pennsylvania State University. Parents and infants participated in
either one (2.5 hour duration) or two (to prevent infant fatigue; 1.5
hour duration) lab visits, as part of a larger study. Following informed
consent, parents completed questionnaires reporting their infant’s
temperament and demographics. Participants then completed the
modified SFP task with their infant (approximately 8 minutes). The
modified SFP task was video- recorded to allow for observation of in-
fant behaviors. Participants were compensated with $50 and infants
received a T- shirt with the lab logo.
3.1 | Descriptive statistics
Descriptive statistics for infant behavior during the SFP, maternal de-
Pearson correlations were conducted to examine associations
between infant age and sex relative to other study variables. Infant
age was normally distributed, and there were an even number of
males and females in the sample. There were no differences be-
tween males and females in child temperament (ps > .10), maternal
mobile device use habits (ps > .10), or infant behaviors during the
SFP (ps > .10). Older infants showed more engagement with mother
during FP (r = .46, p = .001), and infant age was positively correlated
with attentional control (r = .34, p = .02) and approach/interest (r =
.42, p = .003). Infant age was not significantly correlated with ma-
ternal mobile device use (ps>.10).Althoughtherewereonlylimited
relations between infant age and other measures, due to the wide
age range of the sample, age was included as a covariate in subse-
quent analyses to control for the potential influence of developmen-
tal stage on observed behaviors (e.g., greater mobility, verbal skills
in older infants).
3.2 | Analytic plan
First, as a manipulation check, we examined within- subject differ-
ences in behaviors across the three phases of the SFP to confirm that
the parameters of the task elicited varying levels of child behaviors.
Second, a series of regressions were conducted to examine the main
research question regarding the relationship between maternal device
use and infant behavior in the SFP.
TABLE2 Descriptive statistics for SFP behaviors
Behavior Min Max Mean (SD)
Free play phase
Negative affect .00 .80 .07 (.16)
Positive affect .00 1.00 .29 (.25)
Toy engagement .15 1.00 .92 (.15)
Engagement with
.00 1.00 .68 (.26)
Room exploration .00 .95 .44 (.29)
Still face phase
Negative affect .00 .78 .17 (.24)
Positive affect .00 .57 .06 (.12)
Toy engagement .20 1.00 .82 (.22)
Social bid .00 1.00 .26 (.27)
Room exploration .00 1.00 .50 (.31)
Reunion phase
Negative affect .00 1.00 .10 (.20)
Positive affect .00 1.00 .21 (.27)
Toy engagement .00 1.00 .70 (.41)
Engagement with
.00 1.00 .63 (.38)
Room exploration .00 1.00 .32 (.37)
Maternal device use Min Max Mean (SD)
How often do you use your device(s)? 1 5 2.74 (.97)
Do you use your device(s) in the
presence of family members? If so, how
2 5 2.92 (.80)
Do you use your device(s) in the
presence of your baby? If so, how
2 4 2.54 (.68)
Communication types 8 14 10.34 (1.24)
Response scale for use in front of family and baby (per day) = (1) do not use in presence; (2) less than
TABLE3 Descriptive statistics for
maternal device use
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MYRUSKI et al.
3.3 | Infant behavior during still face paradigm
To examine differences across the phases of the SFP, repeated-
measures ANCOVAs were conducted separately for each behavior
(negative affect, positive affect, toy engagement, engagement with
mother, social bids, room exploration) with age in months as a co-
variate, and Phase (FP, SF, RU) as a within- subjects factor (Figure 1).
Bonferroni correction was used to control for multiple comparisons in
post- hoc paired- samples t tests (adjusted p = .017).
Affect: Mirroring the effects of the traditional SFP, infants
showed more negative affect during SF versus FP, [t(49) = 2.98, p =
.004; F(2, 96) = 5.67, p = .005, ƞp
less positive affect during SF versus FP [t(49)=−7.14,p<.001]and
RU [t(49)= −3.85,p < . 001; F(2, 96) = 23.11, p < .001, ƞp
2= .33].
Positive affect was also greater during FP in comparison to RU [t(49)
= 2.64, p=.011].
Toy engagement: Infants showed more toy engagement in FP com pared
to SF [t(49) = 3.37, p= .001]andRU[t(49) = 2.16, p < .001; F(2, 96) =
11.25, p < .001, ƞp
Social behaviors: Infants also showed less engagement with mother
during SF compared to FP [t(49)=−17.64,p< .001]and RU[t(49) =
−11.37,p < .001; F(2, 96) = 117.83, p < .001, ƞp
2= .71]. Social bids
were used more in SF compared to FP [t(49) = 6.76, p<.001]andRU
[t(49) = 5.51, p < .001; F(2, 98) = 37.70, p < .001, ƞp
Exploration: Finally, infants explored the room less in RU compared
to SF [t(49)=−3.50,p = .001; F(2, 98) = 6.89, p = .002, ƞp
3.4 | Infant temperament and behavior during still
face paradigm
To identify covariates for regression analyses, infant temperament
was examined in relation to mobile device use and child behavior dur-
ing the SFP. Pearson correlations revealed that infants with greater
parent- reported negative affectivity showed less engagement with
mother during FP (r=−.31,p = .03), and less room exploration during
RU (r = −.30, p = .03). Infants with greater parent- reported activity
level expressed more negative affect during SF (r = .29, p = .04). Infants
with greater approach/interest engaged in more room exploration
during SF (r = .32, p = .03).
3.5 | Maternal mobile device use and infant behavior
during still face paradigm
Associationsbetween self-reportof maternal mobiledeviceuse and
behavior during the SFP were examined using linear regressions as
follows: 1st step = age, sex, and infant temperament variables (nega-
tive affectivity, activity level, approach/interest); 2nd step = maternal
device use (separately for mobile device use variable: overall habitual
during SFP, separately for each phase. Infant temperamental variables
were included as covariates since they correlated with infant behavior.
The Benjamini- Hochberg correction (Benjamini & Hochberg, 1995)
was applied to correct for multiple comparisons for each phase.3
This procedure, which involves ranking p- values and accounts for the
number of tests conducted, was applied separately to each family of
regressions (i.e., separately for each SFP phase), since this correction
approach assumes independence of samples. All p-values reported
below are raw, and were significant using a false discovery rate crite-
rion of 0.25 which is recommended for research questions that are a
first, relatively exploratory step (Benjamini & Hochberg, 1995). Based
on these parameters, raw p- values less than approximately .085 were
considered significant.
3.5.1 | Free play phase
Maternal mobile device use did not significantly predict infant behav-
ior during the SFP (ps > .10).
3.5.2 | Still face phase
Greater habitual device use was associated with less room exploration
[β=−.39, t(49)=−2.70,p=.01;Figure2], andmorefrequentdevice
Questionnaire Subscale Measure used NMin Max Mean (SD)
Attentionalcontrol z- Score 50 −1.87 1.80
IBQ 11 2.25 5.27 3.49 (0.99)
TBAQ 39 2.13 5.31 3.77(0.88)
Activitylevel z- Score 50 −2.10 2.49
IBQ 11 3.93 5.67 4.67 (0.62)
TBAQ 39 2.67 6.10 4.24 (0.75)
Approach/interest z- Score 50 −1.94 1.68
IBQ 11 3.70 6.75 5.27(1.03)
TBAQ 39 1.60 5.00 3.42(0.94)
Negative affectivity z- Score 50 −1.71 3.06
IBQ 11 3.26 4.56 3.93(0.44)
TBAQ 39 2.16 5.03 3.26(0.66)
TABLE4 Descriptive Statistics for
Temperament Questionnaire Subscales
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use in front of infant was associated with less positive affect [β=−.35,
3.5.3 | Reunion phase
Greater habitual device use [β = −.38, t(49) = −2.55, p = .014], and
more specifically greater use in front of infant [β=−.29,t(49)=−2.05,
device use [β= −.30,t(49)= −1.96,p = .057],as wellasuse infront
of infant [β=−.29,t(49)=−1.95,p=.057],wasmarginallyassociated
with less positive affect. Greater habitual device use [β=−.36,t(49) =
−2.54,p=.015;Figure3],moreuseinfrontoffamily[β=−.25,t(49) =
during this phase.
Since infants tend to respond to maternal unresponsiveness during
the SF phase with distress (Trevarthen, 1977), the SF phase is char-
acterized by a decrease in positive affect and an increase in negative
affect (Mesman et al., 2009). Consistent with the extant literature,
the modified SFP using a mobile device in the current study produced
robust differential patterns of infant behavior between the three
phases. Infants expressed increased negative affect in the SF versus
FP, as well as decreased positive affect and engagement with mother
in SF versus both FP and RU. Infants also increased social bids dur-
ingtheSFinanattempttoobtain theircaregiver’s attention.Infants
displayed more toy engagement during FP versus the other phases,
likely due to the fact that infants were adjusting to the new environ-
ment and parents aided in toy engagement when they were available
to interact, whereas during RU infants were preoccupied with re-
engaging with the parent and they lacked scaffolding for play during
SF. Finally, infants explored the room less in RU compared to SF, pos-
sibly because they were more focused on reuniting with their mother
following the SF phase. In fact, as predicted, infant engagement with
mother increased significantly between the SF and RU phases. Two-
way engagement was greater in FP and RU when the rules of the task
allowed for it, whereas social bids were greater when the parent was
unavailable during SF. These observed patterns illustrate that the
modified SFP may act as a potentially analogous paradigm to the origi-
nal SFP and can be used to understand the implications of maternal
device use on infant social- emotional functioning.
Results of the current study also indicated that individual differ-
ences in infant temperament contribute to behavior during the SFP
phases. Infants with higher parent- reported temperamental negative
affectivity engaged less with their caregiver during FP. During RU, in-
fants with higher negative affectivity displayed less room exploration,
indicating less recovery. This is consistent with findings that infants
high in negative affectivity showed less emotion regulation during SF,
blunting recovery during RU (Braungart- Rieker et al., 1998; Mesman
et al., 2009). During SF, infants with greater activity level scores
showed more negative affect. It is possible that it is more challenging
for more active infants to deal with their nonresponsive parent, result-
ing in increased negative affect. Finally, infants with greater approach/
interest scores showed more room exploration during SF. Increased
approach and interest scores may be related to decreased fear (Buss,
2011; Rothbart et al., 1992) and increased curiosity about the environ-
ment, resulting in increased room exploration.
ofmaternal device use on infant emotion regulation and parent–in-
fant interactions.Although previous research suggests that physical
FIGURE1 Infant behavior significantly differed across the three
phases of the still face paradigm. Notably, the still face phase elicited
greater negative affect, but less positive affect
Negative Affec
Positive Affect
Toy Engagemen
Engagement with Mothe
Social Bid
Room Exploration
Child Behavior by during the Still Face Paradigm
Still Face ReunionFreeplay
*** ***
FIGURE2 Greater parental device use predicts less infant room
exploration during the still face phase, while controlling for infant
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MYRUSKI et al.
and emotional unavailability may decrease the quality of the social
exchange (Field, 1994), no study has examined the effect of maternal
device use on infant behavior and emotion regulation. The results of
the current study suggest that greater maternal mobile use is associ-
ated with behavior patterns across the SFP phases, even when infant
temperamental traits are taken into account. Contrary to predictions,
infants of mothers who frequently used devices did not show less neg-
ative affect, or more positive affect, during the SF phase. We did note
decreased room exploration during SF and RU as a function of greater
habitual use, indicating that these infants were not unaffected by the
disruption. These findings may suggest that parental habitual device
usemaybeassociatedwithan infant’sabilityto adjusttotheir envi-
ronment and highlight the need for future research in this area.
Importantly, during RU, greater habitual device use was associated
with less positive affect, less engagement with mother, and less room
exploration. The RU phase is crucial in that it provides an opportunity
for the parent and infant to reconnect. However, the current study
showed that with greater habitual device use, the reunion between
mother and infant was not as successful. Consistent with previous re-
search showing that greater parental mobile device use was related to
less interaction with children (Radesky et al., 2015), and insensitive or
aggressive parent responses to social bids (Radesky et al., 2014), the
current findings suggest that frequent habitual device use may reduce
the successful repair of interactions following disruptions. These results
highlight the importance of research surrounding parental device use
and its impact on both infant emotional regulation development and the
qualityof social exchange in parent–infantinteractions. The modified
SFP represents a promising theoretical framework for this research.
Although the results from the current study confirm the find-
ings that parental mobile device use is associated with infant social-
should be noted. First, the age range included in the current study
was relatively wide, encompassing developmental stages with vary-
ing levels ofmobility, language ability, and understanding ofothers’
intentions. For these reasons, age was included as a covariate in all
main analyses. Age did not significantlyalter the pattern of results
when examining either infant behaviors across stages or relations be-
findings represent a crucial starting point and previous studies have
illustrated that the SFP can be used across a wide age range (Weinberg
et al., 2008), future studies must investigate smaller age ranges and/
or track changes longitudinally across early childhood to more con-
cretely understand when and how maternal device use impacts social-
emotionaldevelopment.Also,thecurrentstudylackeda comparison
group or comparison condition exposed to the classic SFP at the same
age. Future studies should aim to address this gap to establish if the
two versions elicit similar patterns of behavior in the same child.
In addition, contrary to the classic SFP, in the modified SFP with
a mobile device, toys were freely available, infant mobility was not
restricted, and mothers were not instructed to maintain eye contact
during SF. Importantly, these variations included in the modified SFP
more closely resemble real-life parent–child interactions involving
disruptions in social- emotional communication, thus increasing the
ecological validity of this paradigm. Due to these differences, the cur-
rent SF may have elicited overall lower levels of negative affect versus
other behaviors as compared to the classic SF (Braungart- Rieker et al.,
2014; Fuertes et al., 2006; Montirosso, Casini et al., 2015; Montirosso,
Provenzi et al., 2015; Provenzi et al., 2015). This difference in negative
affect frequency could also be due to differences in coding methods
used (e.g., 30 second epochs versus second- by- second microanalysis).
It also may be that infants are more accustomed to disruptions due to
mobile device use and thus were not as distressed as they would be by
the classic SFP. These subtle, low- level expressions of negative affect
might be common among children whose parents habitually and fre-
quently use mobile devices, and future research should examine their
function, such as serving to re- engage the parent or express distress.
bile device use only went from (1) less than 30 minutes per day to (5)
FIGURE3 Greater parent device use was associated with less infant positive affect (left) and engagement with mother (right) during the
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   MYRUSKI et al.
greater than 5 hours per day for three contexts: general device use
frequency, use in front of family, and use in front of their infant. Future
research should track device use in real time or complete in- home be-
havioral observations to observe how often parents use their device
and how the infant reacts. This would provide a better understanding
of how parent device use and how familiarity with a device may impact
emotional functioning over time to determine whether device use has
a long- term impact on emotion regulation development.
Finally, it is important to note that the durations of the three
phases were altered from the original SFP. Similar to previous studies
(Weinberg et al., 2008), an extended free play phase was included to
allow dyads enough time to adjust to the room in which they had the
freedom to move at will, in contrast to the classic SFP. However, the
most notable shortcoming of the current SFP design was that the re-
union phase was only 1 minute long. Despite this short time- period,
infants exhibited patterns of behavior suggesting dyadic interaction
repair (e.g., increase in engagement with mother), as well as significant
individual differences in recovery behaviors, which related to mobile
device use habits. This suggests that, while this short RU phase may
not be ideal, it was sufficient to detect notable patterns of infant be-
havior and lays the groundwork for subsequent investigations. Future
studies should extend this phase to observe recovery over a longer pe-
riod, and track individual differences in recovery trajectories in relation
to patterns of daily device use.
The modified SFP used in the current study may represent a fruitful
methodforexaminingthe useofdigitaldevices inparent–child rela-
tionships in a controlled, yet ecologically valid manner. Taken together,
results suggest that parental device use influences the quality of par-
on the role of technology in infant social- emotional development.
1 The current sample was a subsample taken from a larger study examin-
ing broader patterns of socioemotional functioning in the first 2 years
of life (LoBue, Buss, Taber- Thomas, & Pérez- Edgar, 2017; Morales et al.,
in press).
2 The distributions for some of the observed behaviors were significantly
positively or negatively skewed. However, these skewed behaviors
would be expected to be used either extremely frequently or infre-
quently due to the nature of the paradigm (e.g., task parameters would
not be expected to elicit social bids from children during free play
or reunion). These skewed behaviors were included in the repeated-
measures analyses only, in order to track differences in behavior fre-
quency across the three phases.
3 Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons was used in the analyses of
covariance reported above, since Benjamini- Hochberg is not recommended
for within- subject tests (Benjamini & Hochberg, 1995).
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How to cite this article: Myruski S, Gulyayeva O, Birk S,
Maternal mobile device use is related to infant social-
emotional functioning. Dev Sci. 2018;21:e12610. https://doi.
... This dynamic minimizes a child's ability to learn about appropriate emotional responses. Further, parental phone use has been associated with "still face," an expressionless face previously related to parental depression (Myruski et al., 2018). Frequent exposure to such expressions could impede a child's emotional skill development as learning opportunities from parents' emotional expressions are reduced. ...
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Smartphone use during parent-child interactions is highly prevalent, however, there is a lack of scientific knowledge on how smartphone use during breastfeeding or face-to-face interactions may modulate mothers' attentive responsiveness towards the infant as well as maternal physiological arousal. In the present study, we provide the first evidence for the influence of the smartphone on maternal physiological responses and her attention towards the infant during breastfeeding and face-to-face interactions. Twenty breastfeeding mothers and their infants participated in this lab study during which electrodermal activity, cardio-graph impedance, and gaze patterns were monitored in breastfeeding and face-to-face interactions with three conditions manipulating the level of maternal smartphone involvement. We report that mothers' gaze toward their infants decreased when breastfeeding while using the smartphone compared to face-to-face interaction. Further, we show that greater maternal electrodermal activity and cardiac output were related to longer maternal gaze fixation toward the smartphone during breastfeeding. Finally, results indicate that mothers' smartphone addiction levels were negatively correlated with electrodermal activity during breastfeeding. This study provides an initial basis for much required further research that will explore the influence of smartphone use on maternal biobehavioral responses in this digital age and the consequences for infant cognitive, emotional, and social development.
Information and communication technology (ICT) facilitates communication within families but may also displace face-to-face communication and intimacy. The aims of this systematic review were to investigate what positive and negative relationship outcomes are associated with ICT use in families, and whether and how the outcomes differ depending on relationship type (romantic relationship, parent–child relationship, or sibling). Included in the review were research published in English between 2009 and 2019 studying the effects of ICT on family relationships with quantitative data. 70 peer-reviewed articles (73 studies) were retrieved and categorized based on four types of ICT variables: personal use, personal use in the presence of a family member (technoference), communication between family members, and co-use with family members. Personal use and technoference were mostly related to negative outcomes due to, for example, displaced attention and more frequent conflicts. Romantic partners were especially strongly negatively affected displaying stressors unique to romantic relationships, such as infidelity. By contrast, communication and co-use showed mostly positive effects across all relationship types. In particular, “rich” communication media resembling face-to-face interaction were strongly associated with positive outcomes. We conclude that ICT impacts family relations in different ways, depending on both the type of relationship and type of ICT use. Personal ICT use tends to weaken both parenting and romantic relationships in ways that can partly be mitigated by co-use and communication. Directions for future research include, assessing how often ICT is used in relationship-strengthening versus relationship-interfering ways, investigating causal pathways between ICT use and relationship quality, and focusing on understudied relationship types, such as siblings and grandparents.
Infants are vulnerable to changes in the dyadic synchrony with their caregivers, as demonstrated in numerous experiments employing the still‐face paradigm. The sudden lack of attunement causes infant stress reactions and the still‐face literature have suggested potential long‐term costs of this in terms of development of social, emotional and cognitive skills. Acknowledging the rapid technological development accompanied by altered practices in the parent‐infant interaction, the current study investigates infant behavioural reactions in a similar experimental paradigm, manipulating parental responsiveness and sensitivity in a slightly different manner. In the current study, the parent interrupts the ongoing interaction, simulating occupation with a smartphone, rather than making a ‘still‐face’. In a cross‐sectional design, infants of six, nine and twelve months display increased levels of protest behaviour in response to the interrupted interaction with their parent, together with lowered levels of positive engagement and social monitoring, suggesting similar behavioural responses as the still‐face effect. Implications for infant social and emotional development, as well as for mindful tech habits are discussed.
This paper examines the evidence of children's agency in research about infants, toddlers and technologies. It finds that an implicit reliance on technological determinism as a theoretical perspective for positioning technologies relative to young children's development tends to shape research in terms of understanding the impact of technologies on young children. Drawing on critical constructivism as a philosophical stance on technologies, this paper argues that children's agency with technologies may be further investigated in terms of practice architectures to better understand the social mediation of infant and toddler interactions and engagements with technologies.
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The present study examined the impact of maternal mobile phone use during motherchild interaction on infants' physiological and behavioral reactivity (i.e., heart rate and negative affect). In this experimental study, 106 mother-infant (M age = 11.88 months; 51% male) dyads were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions. All conditions started and ended with a 3-min mother-child free-play and the manipulation occurred in between them: (1) Mobile-phonedisruptions: an experimenter sent mothers text messages and mothers were instructed to reply; (2) Social-disruptions: an experimenter entered the room and posed the same questions verbally; (3) Undisrupted-play: mother-child free-play. Infants' heart rate (HR) was recorded and observed negative affect (NA) was rated offline. Infants in the mobile disruptions condition exhibited the highest increase in HR and NA between the freeplay and the mobile-phone disruptions phase compared to the two control conditions. They also showed the sharpest decrease in HR between the mobile-phone disruptions and subsequent free-play phases. Finally, infants assigned to the mobile-phonedisruptions group showed the tightest coupling between physiological and behavioral reactivity, as evident in strong positive associations between HR and NA change scores. Mobile-phone disruptions during mother-infant interactions elicit physiological and behavioral reactivity among infants, suggesting that this may be a stressful context.
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The current study examined the relations between individual differences in attention to emotion faces and temperamental negative affect across the first two years of life. Infant studies have noted a normative pattern of preferential attention to salient cues, particularly angry faces. A parallel literature suggests that elevated attention bias to threat is associated with anxiety, particularly if coupled with temperamental risk. Examining the emerging relations between attention to threat and temperamental negative affect may help distinguish normative from at-risk patterns of attention. Infants (N=145) ages 4 to 24 months (Mean=12.93 months, SD=5.57) completed an eye-tracking task modeled on the attention bias “dot-probe” task used with older children and adults. With age, infants spent greater time attending to emotion faces, particularly threat faces. All infants displayed slower latencies to fixate to incongruent versus congruent probes. Neither relation was moderated by temperament. Trial-by-trial analyses found that dwell time to the face was associated with latency to orient to subsequent probes, moderated by the infant’s age and temperament. In young infants low in negative affect longer processing of angry faces was associated with faster subsequent fixation to probes; young infants high in negative affect displayed the opposite pattern at trend. Findings suggest that although age was directly associated with an emerging bias to threat, the impact of processing threat on subsequent orienting was associated with age and temperament. Early patterns of attention may shape how children respond to their environments, potentially via attention’s gate-keeping role in framing a child’s social world for processing.
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Research has demonstrated that humans detect threatening stimuli more rapidly than non-threatening stimuli. Although the literature presumes that biases for threat should be nor-mative, present early in development, evident across multiple forms of threat, and stable across individuals, developmental work in this area is limited. Here, we examine the developmental differences in infants' (4-to 24-month-olds) attention to social (angry faces) and nonsocial (snakes) threats using a new age-appropriate dot-probe task. In Experiment 1, infants' first fixations were more often to snakes than to frogs, and they were faster to fix-ate probes that appeared in place of snakes vs. frogs. There were no significant age differences , suggesting that a perceptual bias for snakes is present early in life and stable across infancy. In Experiment 2, infants fixated probes more quickly after viewing any trials that contained an angry face compared to trials that contained a happy face. Further, there were age-related changes in infants' responses to face stimuli, with a general increase in looking time to faces before the probe and an increase in latency to fixate the probe after seeing angry faces. Together, this work suggests that different developmental mechanisms may be responsible for attentional biases for social vs. nonsocial threats.
The common approach to the multiplicity problem calls for controlling the familywise error rate (FWER). This approach, though, has faults, and we point out a few. A different approach to problems of multiple significance testing is presented. It calls for controlling the expected proportion of falsely rejected hypotheses — the false discovery rate. This error rate is equivalent to the FWER when all hypotheses are true but is smaller otherwise. Therefore, in problems where the control of the false discovery rate rather than that of the FWER is desired, there is potential for a gain in power. A simple sequential Bonferronitype procedure is proved to control the false discovery rate for independent test statistics, and a simulation study shows that the gain in power is substantial. The use of the new procedure and the appropriateness of the criterion are illustrated with examples.
Although cognitive theories of psychopathology suggest that attention bias towards threat plays a role in the etiology and maintenance of anxiety, there is relatively little evidence regarding individual differences in the earliest development of attention bias towards threat. The current study examines attention bias towards threat during its potential first emergence by evaluating the relations between attention bias and known risk factors of anxiety (i.e., temperamental negative affect and maternal anxiety). We measured attention bias to emotional faces in infants (N=98; 57 male) ages 4 to 24 months during an attention disengagement eye-tracking paradigm. We hypothesized that: 1) there would be an attentional bias towards threat in the full sample of infants, replicating previous studies, 2) attentional bias towards threat would be positively related to maternal anxiety, and 3) attention bias towards threat would be positively related to temperamental negative affect. Finally, 4) we explored the potential interaction between temperament and maternal anxiety in predicting attention bias towards threat. We found that attention bias to the affective faces did not change with age, and that bias was not related to temperament. However, attention bias to threat, but not attention bias to happy faces, was positively related to maternal anxiety, such that higher maternal anxiety predicted a larger attention bias for all infants. These findings provide support for attention bias as a putative early mechanism by which early markers of risk are associated with socioemotional development.
Background: Maternal behavior and infant 5-HTTLPR polymorphism have been linked to infants' social stress reactivity and recovery at different ages. Nonetheless, Gene × Environment (G × E) studies focusing on early infancy are rare and have led to mixed results. Aim: To investigate the contribution of maternal social engagement and infants' 5-HTTLPR polymorphism in predicting infants' negative emotionality in response to a social stressor, namely maternal unresponsiveness. Study design: Cross-sectional, G × E study. Subjects: 73 4-month-old infants and their mothers took part to the Face-to-Face Still-Face (FFSF) procedure. Outcomemeasures: A micro-analytical coding of negative emotionality was adopted to measure infants' reactivity to social stress (Still-Face episode) and infants' recovery after social stress (Reunion episode). Maternal contribution was measured as maternal social engagement during the Play episode. Infantswere genotyped as S-carriers or L-homozygotes. Results: The interplay between maternal social engagement and infants' genotype was found to be predictive of infants' negative emotionality during both Still-Face and Reunion episodes of the FFSF paradigm. The interaction highlighted that maternal social engagement predicted minor negative emotionality during Still-Face and Reunion episodes for S-carrier infants, but not for L-homozygotes. Conclusions: Findings extend previous results on adults and children, highlighting that maternal behavior might be a protective factor for stress reactivity and regulation, especially for S-carrier infants who are at risk for heightened stress susceptibility. © 2015 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
To examine associations of maternal mobile device use with the frequency of mother–child interactions during a structured laboratory task.Methods Participants included 225 low-income mother–child pairs. When children were ∼6 years old, dyads were videotaped during a standardized protocol in order to characterize how mothers and children interacted when asked to try familiar and unfamiliar foods. From videotapes, we dichotomized mothers on the basis of whether or not they spontaneously used a mobile device, and we counted maternal verbal and nonverbal prompts toward the child. We used multivariate Poisson regression to study associations of device use with eating prompt frequency for different foods.ResultsMothers were an average of 31.3 (SD 7.1) years old, and 28.0% were of Hispanic/nonwhite race/ethnicity. During the protocol, 23.1% of mothers spontaneously used a mobile device. Device use was not associated with any maternal characteristics, including age, race/ethnicity, education, depressive symptoms, or parenting style. Mothers with device use initiated fewer verbal (relative rate 0.80; 95% confidence interval 0.63, 1.03) and nonverbal (0.61; 0.39, 0.96) interactions with their children than mothers who did not use a device, when averaged across all foods. This association was strongest during introduction of halva, the most unfamiliar food (0.67; 0.48, 0.93 for verbal and 0.42; 0.20, 0.89 for nonverbal interactions).Conclusions Mobile device use was common and associated with fewer interactions with children during a structured interaction task, particularly nonverbal interactions and during introduction of an unfamiliar food. More research is needed to understand how device use affects parent–child engagement in naturalistic contexts.
To characterize infant reactions to jealousy evocation, 94 6-month-olds and their mothers were videotaped in an episode where the mothers directed positive attention toward a lifelike doll, and in 2 contrasting interactions: face-to-face play and a still-face perturbation. Cross-context comparisons of affects and behaviors revealed that jealousy evocation responses were distinguished by diminished joy and heightened anger and intensity of negative emotionality, comparable to levels displayed during the still-face episode; heightened sadness, with durations exceeding those displayed during still-face exposure; and an approach response consisting of interest, looks at mother, and diminished distancing, which was more pronounced than that demonstrated during play. Infants' heightened anger and sadness during jealousy evocation correlated with heightened maternal sensitivity and dyadic vocal turn-taking, respectively, during play; and infants' diminished joy and interest during jealousy evocation were associated with heightened maternal withdrawal and intrusiveness, respectively, during play. Both fear and mother-directed gaze were greater in girls. The discussion argues for interpreting the infant's mixed and agitated reaction to jealousy evocation as evidence of jealousy.