How Does the Quality of the Mother-Infant Relationship Influence the Baby’s Capacity to Be Alone and Develop Play?

Buchanan, Jill
McDermott, Anne
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Master of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

This research explores the qualities of the mother, baby and mother-infant dyad that influence the baby’s developing capacity to be alone and develop play. I explored psychodynamic and developmental theory and research that addresses ‘play’ and the ‘capacity to be alone’ and developed a framework that focused primarily on the psychological function of play and the capacity to be alone. I added a further dimension to my research by triangulated observational material from a mother-infant study with the research findings and psychoanalytic theory. An aim of this research was to explore the influences of the individual mother, baby and then the dyad. First I focused on the mother’s socio-cultural world, her inner psychic world, her functioning and her actions and how these would influence the baby’s emotional development. Then I researched the baby’s contribution to his emotional development by investigating his in-utero and early situational experiences, his temperament and his developmental level that would influence his developing capacity to be alone and play. Finally I considered the qualities within the developing dyad from birth focusing on the early primary relationship, their mutual interaction, mother’s attunement, their synchrony and how the baby makes sense of these interactions. This study showed that both mother and baby make individual contributions to the baby’s developing capacity to be alone and develop play. This study concludes that the fate of the potential space between the mother and baby and their mutual dynamic interactions was the major influence on the baby’s developing capacity to be alone and develop play.

Child development , Attachment theory , Aloneness , Triangulation , Sociocultural , Emotion
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