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Children's Reaction to Mothers Wearing or Not Wearing a Mask During Face-to-Face Interactions

21 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2021

See all articles by Edward Tronick

Edward Tronick

University of Massachusetts

Nancy Snidman

University of Massachusetts

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Abstract

Infants’ reaction to their mothers wearing masks.Ed Tronick and Nancy SnidmanThe iconic Madonna and Child has been replaced by surgical mask wearing mothers and child 1,2 .  A concern about mask wearing is that the mask distorts the emotional communication between mother and child, disrupting their relationship and stressing the child with long-term developmental consequences. 3-5    Over the past year we have received numerous inquiries from parents and professionals who work with young families, about the effects of masks on the parent-child relationship.  These inquiries often argue that mask wearing is similar to the classic Face-to-Face Still-Face Experiment in which mothers remain still faced and inactive while face-to-face with their infants. In response the children get distressed by her lack of response. 6,7   Given the concerns and developmental issues associated with mask wearing we carried out an in-home experiment using smart phone video to record the interaction between mothers and their infants when the mother was wearing or not wearing her mask. Surprisingly, we found that while almost all the infants reacted in varying ways to the mother putting on, as well as taking off the mask, the mask wearing itself did not disrupt their ongoing interaction. These findings challenge current hypotheses about the critical nature of the face and in particular mouth for communication and the organization of the brain for face perception.

Funding: This project was self-funded.

Declaration of Interest: None to declare.

Ethical Approval: The study was approved by the IRB of University of Massachusetts Boston. All participants gave informed consent.

Suggested Citation

Tronick, Edward and Snidman, Nancy, Children's Reaction to Mothers Wearing or Not Wearing a Mask During Face-to-Face Interactions. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3899140 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3899140

Edward Tronick (Contact Author)

University of Massachusetts ( email )

MA
United States

Nancy Snidman

University of Massachusetts ( email )

MA
United States

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