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Infancy Research in Prague 1953–1970:
Self-regulation, Individual Variability, Co-regulation

Frühentwicklung der Selbstregulation:
System der basalen adaptiven Verhaltensregulation
Individuelle Variabilität, Temperament, Soziale Signale

Evidence of Infants’ Adaptive Response System

Excerpts from:

Papoušek, M. (2004). Evidence of infant self-regulation included in infant learning and parental co-regulation in naturalistic contexts. Unpublished original English manuscript for publication in Czech language. In: J. Dittrichová, M. Papoušek and K. Paul (eds.) (2004): Infant behavior and parental care. Prague, Grada Publisher: 77–100

The Prague studies on infant learning included systematic behavioral coding of visual, vocal, facial and oral responses as well as polygraphic recordings of general motor activity, head turning, and breathing during the course of infant learning. These data had revealed close interrelations between the course of infants’ integrative learning processes and autonomic arousal, behavioral-emotional state, motivational systems, and social signaling. Observable autonomic, affective, general motor and communicative behaviors could be interpreted as part of a fundamental adaptive response system, involved in Infant learning processes (Papoušek and Papoušek, 1979). The system includes both observable behaviors (autonomic, motor, communicative) that serve the function of increasing or decreasing informational input (orienting head movements, locomotor approach, exploratory activities on the one side and gaze aversion, withdrawal, secure base behavior on the other) as well as intrinsic operations necessary for processing perceptual input and for organizing adaptive responses.

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Papoušek, H. and Papoušek, M. (1979). The infant's fundamental adaptive response system in social interaction
In: E. B. Thoman (ed.), Origins of the infant's social responsiveness. Hillsdale, NJ, Erlbaum: 175–208.

The functioning of the basic response system becomes evident in behavioral observations and polygraphic recordings of infants in naturalistic contexts.

From the beginning of postnatal life, the newborn infant regularly exhibits episodes of quiet or active alert waking states with clear signs of readiness to observe, to learn and to interact. Thus, for short periods of the day, infants signal their interest and attention with widely open eyes and ears, eager to observe, to integrate information across multiple sensory channels, to imitate, to become familiar with the unknown, to recognize regularities in the caregiver’s behavior, to detect predictable relations between their own behavior and the caregiver’s contingent response.

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For instance, exposure to a novel, unknown event like the first bath in a new bathtub – elicits intense orienting responses, including sympathetic arousal, motor activation, increased muscle tone, closed fists and tense expression in the face. The infant activates the entire organism in order to cope with the unknown event and as if to integrate the unfamiliar stimulation according to simple rules: Is this something familiar or unfamiliar? Is it relevant or irrelevant in relation to my momentary needs? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? Does it relate to and does it depend on my behavior? Moreover, in such novel situations, even the youngest infants tend to turn to their mother’s face and voice for reassurance, asking in a way for the mother’s emotional assessment of the situation and regulatory support. The mother, in turn, will signal encouragement and positive appraisal of the unfamiliar event and thus help the infant to regulate, relax and accommodate to the new experience.

See: Intuitive parenting

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