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Between Terror and Trust: Patterns of Parent-Infant Communication in Play
Unformatted Document Text:  The evolutionary perspective provides a level of explanation that supplements and fills out the personal and the cultural dimensions of the interactions. In this perspective, parent/child play trains behaviors that in our distant past were important for survival. Behaviors such as cuddle-eating, peek-a-boo, monster-face, and finger-eating involve elements that are difficult to make sense of purely within a personal and cultural framework. We suggest it makes sense to understand them as elements of evolved adaptations for learning through simulation and that the pervasive sense of intrinsic enjoyment that accompany them are in fact an integral part of the pedagogical program. While longitudinal studies are required to test the full breadth of the hypothesis, our results suggest that what appears to be frivolous games may have an important psychological function. Games like peek-a-boo, finger-eating, cuddle-eating, and monster face may provide the child with valued opportunities for developing terror management skills and practicing emotional self-regulation. The purpose of this initial study is to establish the basic phenomena and to chart out some of the initial patterns of communication that characterize them. The early development of simulated terror management that is provided by caring fathers (and occasionally mothers) may long=term psychological functions and play a role in an individual’s mental health. A deeper understanding of these dynamics would constitute a significant disciplinary contribution to the study of parent-infant communication, and may also potentially provide a new angle on developmental aspects of clinical psychology.

Authors: Kyas, Jirina. and Steen, Francis.
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The evolutionary perspective provides a level of explanation that supplements and
fills out the personal and the cultural dimensions of the interactions. In this perspective,
parent/child play trains behaviors that in our distant past were important for survival.
Behaviors such as cuddle-eating, peek-a-boo, monster-face, and finger-eating involve
elements that are difficult to make sense of purely within a personal and cultural
framework. We suggest it makes sense to understand them as elements of evolved
adaptations for learning through simulation and that the pervasive sense of intrinsic
enjoyment that accompany them are in fact an integral part of the pedagogical program.
While longitudinal studies are required to test the full breadth of the hypothesis,
our results suggest that what appears to be frivolous games may have an important
psychological function. Games like peek-a-boo, finger-eating, cuddle-eating, and monster
face may provide the child with valued opportunities for developing terror management
skills and practicing emotional self-regulation. The purpose of this initial study is to
establish the basic phenomena and to chart out some of the initial patterns of
communication that characterize them.
The early development of simulated terror management that is provided by
caring fathers (and occasionally mothers) may long=term psychological functions and
play a role in an individual’s mental health. A deeper understanding of these dynamics
would constitute a significant disciplinary contribution to the study of parent-infant
communication, and may also potentially provide a new angle on developmental aspects
of clinical psychology.


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