Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 293–307

Distressed Mothers and Their Infants Use a Less Efficient Timing Mechanism in Creating Expectancies of Each Other’s Looking Patterns


    • NYS Psychiatric InstituteColumbia University
  • Anthony Badalamenti
    • Scientific Support
  • Joseph Jaffe
    • NYS Psychiatric InstituteColumbia University
  • Stanley Feldstein
    • University of Maryland Baltimore County
  • Lisa Marquette
    • Franklin Township Schools
  • Elizabeth Helbraun
    • The Little Room, Brooklyn Heights Montessori
  • Donna Demetri-Friedman
    • NYS Psychiatric InstituteColumbia University
  • Caroline Flaster
    • NYS Psychiatric InstituteColumbia University
  • Patricia Goodman
    • Private Practice
  • Tammy Kaminer
    • Private Practice
  • Limor Kaufman-Balamuth
    • Post Doctoral Program in Psychotherapy and PsychoanalysisNew York University
  • Jill Putterman
    • Private Practice
  • Shanee Stepakoff
    • Private Practice
  • Lauren Ellman
    • NYS Psychiatric InstituteColumbia University
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10936-008-9078-y

Cite this article as:
Beebe, B., Badalamenti, A., Jaffe, J. et al. J Psycholinguist Res (2008) 37: 293. doi:10.1007/s10936-008-9078-y


The prediction of events and the creation of expectancies about their time course is a crucial aspect of an infant’s mental life, but temporal mechanisms underlying these predictions are obscure. Scalar timing, in which the ratio of mean durations to their standard deviations is held constant, enables a person to use an estimate of the mean for its standard deviation. It is one efficient mechanism that may facilitate predictability and the creation of expectancies in mother–infant interaction. We illustrate this mechanism with the dyadic gaze rhythm of mother and infant looking at and looking away from each other’s faces. Two groups of Hi- and Lo-Distress mothers were created using self-reported depression, anxiety, self-criticism and childhood experiences. Lo-Distress infants (controls) used scalar timing 100% of the time, about double that of Hi-Distress infants. Lo-Distress mothers used scalar timing about nine times as much as Hi-Distress mothers. The diminished use of scalar timing patterns in Hi-Distress mothers and infants may make the anticipation of each other’s gaze patterns more difficult for both partners.


Maternal depressionMother-infant looking patternsCommunication timing mechanisms

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008