Mette Væver

Automated Measurement of Co-Regulation of Relational Space in Mother-Infant Interaction: A Pilot Study

Mette Væver

University of Copenhagen

Automated measurement of human movement has developed significantly within recent years and  3D automated motion capture technology has potential to objectively assess and measure continuous human movement. In the present pilot study a motion capture system is used in measuring and documenting continuous changes in co-regulation of relational space in mother-infant face-to-face interaction at 4 months in a small sample.
Spatial behavior is a very straight forward non-verbal signal since it can be measured in terms of distance and/or orientation. Proximity and distance are significant non-verbal features in embodied communication, indicative of social engagement and of importance for infant cognitive and socio-emotional development. Proximity can be regarded as the result of the behavior of one of the persons or as the result of a joint behavior of both of them. In mother-infant interaction movements of the head and bodily orientation to partner are central in the negotiation and co-regulation of relational space. Establishing proximity, distance and disengagement by head movement, e.g by head aversion, serve as means in self-regulation both physiologically and psychologically, but has also other-regulating effect. Likewise by leaning towards and directing head towards partner proximity and closeness is established.
Automated measurements of movement have in this study been used to quantify proximity and infant head positions in mother-infant co-regulation of space. Automated measurements were found to show acceptable to high associations with anatomically based manual coding of infant head positions. Quantification of proximity showed inter-dyads differences as did amount of time infant spend in en-face head positions.
This pilot study using 3D automated motion capture technology provides preliminary new objectively measured data and insight into the phenomenon of relational space and highlights the potential and limitations of automated measurements of non-verbal spatial embodied mother-infant interaction.