Infant Crying pp 139-158 | Cite as

The Communicative and Diagnostic Significance of Infant Sounds

  • Peter F. Ostwald
  • Thomas Murry


Our interest in the cry behavior of infancy stems from a general concern with the clinical significance of human sound. Audible sonic events appear to serve a unique function in social communication, facilitating the exchange of information not only in those precise, phonetic forms called speech but also in more ambiguous ways, via emotional expressions, music, and noises. Sounds are known to have alerting as well as sedating properties. They enter into many aspects of interpersonal relationships and seem to play an especially vital role in the regulation of intimacy. Thus, an infant with its fascinating acoustic repertoire and a mother with her special attachment to the tiny soundmaker offer rich opportunities for scientific research. In this chapter, we will invite the readers’ attention to five dimensions of this subject area that are of particular interest to us: (1) the context of infant crying behavior; (2) its patterning in disease and health; (3) factors that influence cry performance; (4) methodological issues; and (5) the communicative function of crying.


Newborn Infant Deaf Child Developmental Medicine High Fundamental Frequency Infant Vocalization 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter F. Ostwald
    • 1
  • Thomas Murry
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryLangley Porter Psychiatric Institute, School of Medicine, University of California at San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Audiology and Speech Pathology ServiceVeterans Administration Medical CenterSan DiegoUSA

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