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Keywords:

  • mother–infant interaction with toys;
  • caregiving environment;
  • focused attention;
  • exploration of toys;
  • attention-regulating behaviour;
  • infant responsiveness;
  • infant gender;
  • infant birth weight

Effects of infant and caregiving conditions on an infant’s focused exploration of toys

An infant’s exploration of toys, in the context of the mother’s regulating actions, is a setting for cognitive and social development. The aim of this study was to examine the contribution of infant and caregiving conditions to the quantity of focused exploration of toys for 8-month-old infants. Infant biological conditions were gender and birth weight, including a range of both prematurely and term-born infants. The infant behavioural condition was responsiveness to care. Caregiving conditions included mother’s education, the supportive, stimulating and sustaining quality of the home environment, and the attention-directing and -supporting behaviour of the mother during play. The direct and indirect effects of these conditions on focused toy exploration were modelled using multiple regression. The sample of 79 mother–infant dyads included 43 full-term infants and 36 premature infants. The mother’s attention-directing behaviour was a significant negative predictor of focused toy exploration. Infant birth weight did not have a significant direct effect on focused toy exploration. Birth weight did not interact significantly with responsiveness to care or with any of the caregiving environment conditions to affect focused toy exploration. Further study of infant responses to the mother’s attention-regulating and emotion-regulating behaviour during play is recommended to better understand how the caregiving environment supports or thwarts focused toy exploration.