Multimodal parent behaviors within joint attention support sustained attention in infants

Catalina Suarez-Rivera, Linda B. Smith, Chen Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


Parents support and scaffold more mature behaviors in their infants. Recent research suggests that parent-infant joint visual attention may scaffold the development of sustained attention by extending the duration of an infant's attention to an object. The open question concerns the parent behaviors that occur within joint-attention episodes and support infant sustained attention to an object. In the study, parent- infant dyads played with objects on a tabletop while their eye-gaze was recorded with head-mounted eye-trackers. Parent hand contact with the objects as well as speech were coded and analyzed to identify the presence of parent touch and talk during bouts of infant visual attention. This study, consistent with prior research, showed that joint attention is associated with longer infant visual attention. The relevant parent behaviors considered, parent talk and touch, not only were highly likely to occur when both the parent and infant visually attended to the same object, but were also associated with infant attention to an object that was longer than infant attention that did not include these parent behaviors. Parent talk was the most potent behavior that coincided with longer infant looks. In sum, joint attention extends infant attention and joint attention involves more than mutual coordination of eye-gaze, it involves multimodal parent behaviors coordinated with the infant's visual attention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-109
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date29 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • Eye-tracking
  • Joint attention
  • Multimodal behavior
  • Parent responsiveness
  • Sustained attention

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