Kevin Nugent, Director of the Brazelton Institute
The mission of Ab Initio International is to provide scientific and scholarly presentations on cutting edge issues and concepts in the field of parent-infant development. The audience for this on-line journal is primarily scholars and practitioners from fields such as psychology, pediatrics, parent-infant mental health, neonatology, nursing, sociology, physical and occupational therapy, education, social work, and anthropology. We present innovative studies that focus on social, cognitive, educational, emotional, biological, and socio-cultural issues of infants and parents. Research that bridges these areas is especially valued as well as papers focused on under-represented groups. The primary mission for Ab Initio International is to be a vehicle for the development and communication of new concepts and ideas. In this issue, Guest Editor Elisa Vele-Tabaddor and I are pleased to present a series of articles by scholars with diverse epistemological, methodological and clinical orientations.
Ben Bradley holds the Foundation Chair in Psychology at Charles Stuart University in Australia. He is the author of academic books such as Visions of Infancy (Polity Press, 1989) and Psychology and Experience (Cambridge University Press, 2005). In his article, entitled, Groupies R Us: Infants' Surprising Capacity for Group-Interaction, he presents data demonstrating babies' capacities for group-interaction. He begins by questioning the validity of our current paradigms of infant development and proposes that Darwin's (1874) group-based theory of mind can help us discover or perhaps re-discover a genuinely scientific paradigm for the study of mind. He goes on to present his work on babies in peer-groups, which demonstrates nine-month-olds' capacity for appreciating relationships between others.
Infant Psychiatrist Louise Newman is the Director, Monash University Centre for Developmental Psychiatry & Psychology in Australia. Her research focuses on the issues confronting parents with borderline personality and histories of early trauma but also, the impact on infant neurobiological and psychological development. In this article, she begins by pointing out that while neurodevelopmental and infant research over the last 20 years has been examining the interpersonal context of infant brain development, parenting a constellation of caregiving behaviors, interactions, affects and beliefs that involve biological, psychosocial and cultural components is less thoroughly researched. Moreover, disturbances in human parenting behavior including neglect and abuse of children are poorly understood in terms of their neurobiological underpinnings. The research presented here examines the specific patterns of neurobiological parenting difficulties in parents who have experienced significant early trauma as in BPD, and the neurodevelopmental sequelae in infants exposed to parenting disturbance.
Beth McManus, Brazelton Institute faculty member and board-certified physical therapist, is currently a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin. Her research interests include the effects of early intervention on ameliorating neurodevelopmental outcomes associated with low birth weight, prematurity and fetal growth restriction. In this article, Beth and Milton Kotelchuck point out that while there is a growing literature suggesting that aquatic therapy, a specific form of early intervention, is associated with improvements in motor function, there is a paucity of literature related to the benefits of aquatic therapy for parents of young children with disabilities. This study examines parent satisfaction with the degree to which their child's EI was family-centered, transdisciplinary, occurring in natural environments, and associated with improvements in functional mobility. Results show that parents of children enrolled in Early Intervention due to neuromotor delays and disabilities report satisfaction when participating in a weekly aquatic therapy program, combined with home visits.
Thomas Malloy, Chair and Professor of Psychology at Rhode Island College conducts research on interpersonal perception, peer perceptions in classrooms, intergroup relations and reconciliation, individual differences and behavior, cross-cultural psychology, research methodology, and health psychology and is currently funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to test the intergroup relations model he has developed. In his article, he maintains that although dyadic processes are central in some developmental theories, dyadic research has not received sufficient attention in developmental psychology. He introduces a conceptual and statistical model of child-adult language interaction and discusses a research design well-suited for dyadic research. Results show that mothers appear to fine-tune the length and complexity of their utterances in response to these same cues in the utterances of their less competent conversational partners. Children cue adults to provide the appropriate level of language experience that both fits the child's current skills and leads to language advancement, creating a dynamic system between the child and the language environment.
Marian Hartblay is Director of Early Childhood Services at the Clark School for Hearing and Speech in Northampton in the United States. In her paper, she begins by pointing out that in less than 20 years the percentage of infants in the United States, whose hearing was screened at birth increased from 3% to 93% and that the average age of identification of hearing loss in children was reduced from 30 months to 3 months. As Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) increases identification of hearing loss in early infancy, this case study supports the efficacy of the Newborn Behavioral Observations (NBO) system as a point of entry to intervention with a family following diagnosis of permanent hearing loss (PHL) in early infancy. Although generalized conclusions regarding long-term effect are limited, the structured focus of the NBO on facilitation of parent-infant communication and provider collaboration provides a foundational basis for the parent-infant-provider triad and video-analysis supported sustained sensitive parent-infant communication. She concludes that because the core focus of the NBO is on this emerging communication, it is particularly relevant for use in early detection and intervention with deaf and hard of hearing infants and their families.
In this issue of Ab Initio International we are also proud to present an interview with one of the leading figures in the field of cognitive neuroscience, Dr. Charles Nelson, Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. His specific interests are concerned with the effects of early experience on brain and behavioral development, particularly as such experience influences the development of memory and the development of the ability to recognize faces. Charles Nelson studies both typically-developing children and children at risk for neurodevelopmental disorders, and he employs behavioral, electrophysiological (ERP) and metabolic (MRI) tools in his research. In this wide-ranging interview with Elisa Vele-Tabaddor, he discusses his interest in the intersection of brain development and cognitive development and he presents his ideas on how Neuroscience is advancing the fields of infant research, education, intervention and prevention.
In sum, we are extremely pleased to present this new issue of Ab Initio International because it introduces a series of dramatically new concepts and approaches that challenge old paradigms of infant-parent development. We hope that the concepts presented here can serve to stimulate new ideas among researchers, practitioners and public policy makers in service of improving the quality of life for infants and their families across the world.