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Dev Psychopathol. 2002 Spring;14(2):279-91.

Joint attention and disorganized attachment status in infants at risk.

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Department of Psychology, Psychology Annex, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33146-0720, USA.


The development of joint attention skills is a major milestone of infancy. Recent research suggests that the development of these skills may be affected by disorganized (D) attachment. This hypothesis was examined in a longitudinal study of attachment and joint attention skill development in a sample of infants at risk for developmental-behavioral morbidity. The results revealed that toddlers with D classifications initiated joint attention with an experimenter significantly less often than did secure, or even other insecure, toddlers. However, no group differences in the capacity to respond to the joint attention bids of others were observed in this study. These data suggest that a disturbance in the tendency to initiate episodes of joint attention with others may be indicative of early social-cognitive and social-emotional disturbance among infants affected by disorganized attachment status. Theory and research is reviewed to suggest that an early impairment in joint attention facility may make a significant contribution to risk for negative cognitive and emotional outcomes among these infants.

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