Early Interests and Joint Engagement in Typical Development, Autism, and Down Syndrome

  • Lauren B. Adamson
  • Deborah F. Deckner
  • Roger Bakeman
Original Paper


This study examines how spontaneous interests in people and in objects relate to joint engagement in typically developing toddlers and young children with autism or Down syndrome. Ratings of interests were made repeatedly during intermissions in a laboratory-based protocol focused on caregiver-child interactions. Interests were moderated by diagnosis and relatively stable across intermissions. In autism, interest in people tended to be low and to decline rapidly, and the balance of interests favored familiar objects over people. Lower interest in people and in unfamiliar objects was associated with less coordinated joint engagement and with less steep developmental trajectories for symbol-infused joint engagement. These findings suggest that variations in interests may contribute to differences in the child’s engagement during social interactions that facilitate the acquisition of language.


Interests Parent–child interaction Autism Down syndrome Joint attention Communication development 



This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD35612). Portions of the study were presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies, Kyoto, 2006. The authors thank Barbara Dunbar, Pamela K. Rutherford, Janis Sayre, Kimberly M. McMillian, and Alicia Brady for their many contributions to this project. In addition we gratefully acknowledge the coders of this corpus, R. Michael Barker, Nicolle Angeli, Jana Pruett, Kelli Eastman, and Tonya Evans.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauren B. Adamson
    • 1
  • Deborah F. Deckner
    • 1
    • 2
  • Roger Bakeman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyClayton State UniversityMorrowUSA

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