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An Investigation of How Parents and Non-parents Attend to Infant and Child Faces

Thompson-Booth, CL; (2014) An Investigation of How Parents and Non-parents Attend to Infant and Child Faces. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Detecting infant facial cues is a necessary precursor for effective parenting responses. The question arises whether infant faces elicit preferential allocation of attention in order to facilitate such detection. This thesis employed variations of an existing behavioural attentional paradigm (Hodsoll, Viding, & Lavie, 2011) in first-time parents and non-parents. Individual differences in attentional engagement to infant faces were investigated in relation to: parental status; sex; current symptoms of depression; parenting stress; and childhood experience of maltreatment. Mothers and fathers, and women without children, were found to show greater attentional engagement with infant faces compared to adult, adolescent, and pre- adolescent faces (Chapters 2-4). Parents as compared to non-parents showed the greatest level of attentional engagement with infant faces, and mothers and fathers showed a similar pattern of response (Chapter 4). However, pre-adolescent child faces receive enhanced attentional engagement as compared to older faces, but only when displaying negative affect (Chapters 3 and 4). Emotion was found to play an important role, with parents and non-parents showing enhanced attentional engagement with infant faces when they displayed emotional expressions (Chapters 2-4). Current parenting stress and experience of childhood maltreatment were found to be associated with individual differences in attention to infant compared to adult faces; by contrast, current symptoms of depression were not associated with performance on the attention task (Chapters 1 and 5). These findings suggest that infant faces are inherently salient stimuli, especially for parents of infants. Increased attention to infant faces may reflect part of a wider set of adaptive behavioural changes associated with becoming a parent. However, these changes appear to be modulated by early or current adverse life experience, which may affect normative attention processes involved in detecting infant facial cues, with possible implications for parenting behaviour.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: An Investigation of How Parents and Non-parents Attend to Infant and Child Faces
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1417570
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