How to measure infant behavior

Wednesday, 12 September, 2012

In infancy you can observe an explosive growth. Many researchers focus on this age group. Think about studies aimed at learning more about speech behavior, maternal sensitivity, or learning behavior in infancy.

Would you like to learn more? We've recently (October 2016) updated this list with blog posts related to infant behavior research!

  • O.U.C.H. Lab - The Opportunities to Understand Childhood Hurt (O.U.C.H.) Laboratory run by Dr. Rebecca Pillai Riddell (watch her TEDx Talk) focuses on understanding how caregivers and children interact within the context of pain. Their research is performed in a variety of settings, from their own lab space on the York University Campus to the Neonatal Intensive Care Units of major Toronto hospitals. Noldus and the O.U.C.H. Lab staff worked together to create the perfect lab space. Their lab is divided into two areas with observational technology (including up-to-date audio/video equipment), physiological equipment (by MindWare, LLC), and portable observational computing systems.

  • Observing mother-infant behavior - Current research from Prof. Cristina Riva Crugnola, University of Milano-Bicocca tells us that adolescent mothers as well as their babies (vs. adult mother and infant interactions) spent more time in negative engagement, meaning that the mothers showed more pushy behaviors towards the infant, even hostility. The infant also showed more negative behaviors, such as protesting with expressions of anger and crying. 

  • Behavioral observations in autism research -Mothers play a crucial role in the development of  communication of their children. The use of gestures by the mother strongly correlates with the gesture use and language development of their children. Mothers that have an older daughter or son that was diagnosed with ASD, may change their behavior towards the youngerhigher risk on autism(HRA) children. For example, these mothers have learned to use more gestures when communicating with their children. This could affect the gesture use and language development of HRA children.
  • Early Infant behavior development of hand preference -Recently, Nelson et al. presented “Unimanual to bimanual: Tracking the development of handedness from 6 to 24 months”. One of their findings was that, as infants, 39% of these children showed preference for the right hand, whereas 61% had no hand preference. In toddlerhood, this 39% increased to 97%. This study provides some evidence that handedness might begin to stabilize earlier than traditionally assumed. However, in order to confirm this conclusion, more research was required.
  • The facial action coding system in infant behavior research -Forestell and Mennella (2012) used the FACS to objectively quantify infant’s facial expressions. As a result, they gained insight in the relation between infant behavior and the assessment made by his or her mother concerning the infant’s temperament. Forestell and Mennella looked into responses to green vegetables and coded the facial expressions using the Action Unit codes. After analysis, they compared the outcomes with the before mentioned parental assessments. Temperament of the infants was described using the Infant Temperament Scale. On this scale, a parent can indicate the frequency of approach/ withdrawal behavior and to what extend the infant can adapt to a situation.
  • Infant behavior experiments - Interested in a free coding scheme? Olafsen et al. (2006) observed mother-infant interaction and investigated whether early intervention could be beneficial for infants with a low birth weight. The coding scheme they used is available online.
  • Why behavioral data collection works - How are scholars studying learning in infancy? How do they study parental influence? Which methods and techniques are useful and which aren’t? In this blog post I describe several methods and techniques used in infant behavior research.
  • Examples of infant behavior research experiments - In infancy you can observe an explosive growth. A lot of researchers focus on this age group and observe parent-infant dyads to get more insight in specific behaviors. Experiments are often set up to study looking behavior, language acquisition, attachment, or learning behavior.
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