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Between Terror and Trust: Patterns of Parent-Infant Communication in Play
Unformatted Document Text:  focuses on the particular subset that involve pretended dangers, specifically where the father pretends to wish to scare the child. Behaviors we consider include peek-a-boo, cuddle-eating, finger-eating, stationary chase play, pretend attack, and crawling chase play. The central hypothesis that is emerging from this project is that fathers create a distinct kind of pedagogical situation for the child in the act of pretending to be a ’monster’ or a dangerous animal that is seeking to bite or eat the child. In Vygotskian terms, the fathers are scaffolding the learning experience of the child and prompting him or her to grow into their zone of proximal development. The typical content of this learning experience, we suggest, is a certain type of emotional management. In scaring the child for pretend, the child is subjected to an experience with a very complex emotional valence. On the one hand, in going along with the playful pretense and responding to the growls, suspended grabs, wide-open eyes, raised eyebrows, and other cues of being a dangerous predator emitted by the father, the child allows a genuine fear of being eaten to be aroused within herself. Observing the interactions on videotape, we see in detail (and will demonstrate during our presentation) the vacillation in the child’s confidence, as she reaches out her hand or withdraws it, runs away with glee, or squeals in terrified delight. On the other hand -- and this touches on the delight -- the child remains confident that the father in fact is her father and friend, that he will of course not in fact hurt her for real. What the child slowly learns, in other words, is to manage the terror that the scary situation arouses, in such a way that the excitement becomes a cause for enjoyment and fun. Such management of terror in play may have a number of beneficial

Authors: Kyas, Jirina. and Steen, Francis.
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focuses on the particular subset that involve pretended dangers, specifically where the
father pretends to wish to scare the child. Behaviors we consider include peek-a-boo,
cuddle-eating, finger-eating, stationary chase play, pretend attack, and crawling chase
play.
The central hypothesis that is emerging from this project is that fathers create a
distinct kind of pedagogical situation for the child in the act of pretending to be a
’monster’ or a dangerous animal that is seeking to bite or eat the child. In Vygotskian
terms, the fathers are scaffolding the learning experience of the child and prompting him
or her to grow into their zone of proximal development. The typical content of this
learning experience, we suggest, is a certain type of emotional management.
In scaring the child for pretend, the child is subjected to an experience with a very
complex emotional valence. On the one hand, in going along with the playful pretense
and responding to the growls, suspended grabs, wide-open eyes, raised eyebrows, and
other cues of being a dangerous predator emitted by the father, the child allows a genuine
fear of being eaten to be aroused within herself. Observing the interactions on videotape,
we see in detail (and will demonstrate during our presentation) the vacillation in the
child’s confidence, as she reaches out her hand or withdraws it, runs away with glee, or
squeals in terrified delight. On the other hand -- and this touches on the delight -- the
child remains confident that the father in fact is her father and friend, that he will of
course not in fact hurt her for real. What the child slowly learns, in other words, is to
manage the terror that the scary situation arouses, in such a way that the excitement
becomes a cause for enjoyment and fun.
Such management of terror in play may have a number of beneficial


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