Development of adaptive communication skills in infants of blind parents.

A fundamental question about the development of communication behavior in early life is how infants acquire adaptive communication behavior that is well-suited to their individual social environment, and how the experience of parent-child communication affects this development. The current study investigated how infants develop communication skills when their parents are visually impaired and cannot see their infants’ eye gaze. We analyzed 6-min video recordings of naturalistic interaction between 14 sighted infants of blind parents (SIBP) with (a) their blind parent, and (b) a sighted experimenter. Data coded from these interactions were compared with those from 28 age-matched sighted infants of sighted parents (controls). Each infant completed two visits, at 6–10 months and 12–16 months of age. Within each interaction sample, we coded the function (initiation or response) and form (face gaze, vocalization, or action) of each infant communication behavior. When interacting with their parents, SIBP made relatively more communicative responses than initiations, and used more face gaze and fewer actions to communicate, than did controls. When interacting with a sighted experimenter, by contrast, SIBP made slightly (but significantly) more communicative initiations than controls, but otherwise used similar forms of communication. The differential communication behavior by infants of blind versus sighted parents was already apparent by 6–10 months of age, and was specific to communication with the parent. These results highlight the flexibility in the early development of human communication behavior, which enables infants to optimize their communicative bids and methods to their unique social environment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)