This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

“I SEE You”: A Descriptive Analysis of Shared Emotional Experiences During Mother-Infant Interaction




Sjolseth, Sheila

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Human Development and Family Science

Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



Extensive research and theory recognize the bidirectional contributions of parent and infant to the quality of early relationships. During mother-infant interaction, shared emotional experiences, defined as reciprocal and synchronous emotional sharing between mother and infant, are one indicator of early relational health. Interactions with and without toys may each hold value for infants’ development. Yet, it is unclear how mothers’ efforts to engage their infants in play relate to shared emotional experiences. Utilizing a sample of 80 randomly selected videos from two sites of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (NICHD SECCYD), this study examined how mothers’ bids for interaction with their infants (with toys, without toys) relate to the duration of shared emotional experiences during free play. Results from a multilevel analysis indicated that shared emotional experiences were longer when mothers engaged their infants in play without toys. Furthermore, infant-initiated vocalization moderated the association between mothers’ bids for interaction and the duration of shared emotional experiences. When mothers bid for interaction without a toy and infants initiated vocalization during the free play session, the duration of shared emotional experiences was higher compared to when infants did not initiate vocalization. Findings suggest that researchers and practitioners interested in promoting shared emotional experiences between mothers and infants may wish to focus on dyadic interactions without toys.