Mother–Child Play and Emerging Social Behaviors Among Infants From Maltreating Families

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Mother–child play of 12-month-old infants (N = 130) from maltreating (N = 78) and nonmaltreating (N = 52) families was analyzed as a context that integrates infants' developing social and cognitive skills. Play was coded from semistructured and unstructured play paradigms. No group differences were found in infants' play maturity. Infants from abusing families demonstrated more imitative play than infants from nonmaltreating families, and engaged in less independent play than infants from both neglecting and nonmaltreating families, suggesting a delay in emerging social behaviors. Mothers from abusing and nonmaltreating families differed in attention directing behaviors. Maternal behaviors predicted child play style variables, but did not mediate the effects of maltreatment. Findings discuss the influence of an early maltreating environment upon the development of the emergent self. Implications for early intervention are underscored.

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