Behavioral Research Blog

Three things we take with us from 2014

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Dec 23, 2014

As the year comes to a close, the results are crystal clear.

We have rounded up the top three most viewed blog posts of 2014 in psychology, neuromarketing, and autism research.

Interested? Read on!

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Topics: autism research, parent-child interaction, parent-infant dyads, Neuromarketing

Adolescent Motherhood – observing mother-infant behavior

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Jul 25, 2014

Teenagers have the perfect life, right? Living at mom and dad’s, eating without worrying about gaining weight, and relaxing all the way through high school. Unfortunately, not all adolescents have an easy-peasy life. Some have to study to achieve good grades and others have to deal with grownup problems on top of dealing with the emotional ups and downs of adolescence. What about teenage moms? Next to dealing with a newborn, adolescent mothers are tackling their transition to adulthood (taking more distance from parental figures) and the transition to parenthood (the nurturing of an infant and caring for his or her physical and emotional needs). This is called the double risk for mother and infant, inherent in adolescent motherhood. (Riva Crugnola et al. 2014)

Double risk – invest in a solution

Current research from Prof. Cristina Riva Crugnola, University of Milano-Bicocca tells us that adolescent mothers as well as their babies (vs. adult mother and infant interactions) spent more time in negative engagement, meaning that the mothers showed more pushy behaviors towards the infant, even hostility. The infant also showed more negative behaviors, such as protesting with expressions of anger and crying. 

Riva Crugnola and colleagues state that it is important to train skills and competence in adolescent mother-infant interaction by setting up prevention programs. Young mothers should be supported in learning how to be a mother and regulating emotions (in particular, negative ones). Also, timing is everything - the researchers explain that it is also important to start preventive intervention in the first months of life.

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Topics: The Observer XT, infant behavior, Observation lab, parent-infant dyads, adolescent behavior

Two examples of parent-child interaction research

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Jun 2, 2014

Father-infant social behavior


Fatherhood is a topic of high social relevance that attracts much public interest and therefore also the attention of scientists. The important shifts in the father’s role and involvement in childcare have generated empirical interest in the specific patterns of father-infant interactions and their unique contributions to children’s social, emotional, and cognitive growth.

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Topics: The Observer XT, infant behavior, Observation lab, parent-infant dyads

Unobtrusive observations

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on May 16, 2014

Where and how to observe test participants in order to collect reliable data? An observation lab is designed to allow you to observe your test participants unobtrusively, in an environment similar to your test participant’s natural surroundings. However, for some groups of participants, for example elderly people living in a nursing home, transfer to a stationary lab can be stressful or even impossible. In such a case, a portable lab would be ideal. Would you like to learn more about how to build an observation lab? Check out this ‘how to’ guide! Read tips & tricks to learn more!

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Topics: video observation, parent-child interaction, parent-infant dyads, mobile observation, Portable lab

Vocalizations as an early life behavioral marker for ASD

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Aug 30, 2013

One of the prominent features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is impaired communication. However, most diagnoses of ASD happen after the child is more than 3 years old, so there is not much information on the vocalizations of young children with ASD. For children under the age of 3, certain communication skills are not applicable – more information is needed on purely vocalizations (not conversation or language) in order to work on identifying another early life behavioral marker for ASD. In this study, Allison M. Plumb and Amy M. Wetherby chose to examine the vocalizations of ASD children at age 2 and the relationship of these vocalizations to other areas of development.

The goals of the study
Plumb and Wetherby wanted to examine the vocalizations of children aged 18 to 24 months in one group with those who were later diagnosed with ASD and two matched groups for children with developmental delays (DD) and typical development (TD). First, they wanted to compare communicative and non-communicative vocalizations displayed by the children between the three groups. Second, they wanted to examine the concurrent and predictive relationships between vocalization at age 2 and developmental measures at age 2 and 4 in ASD-diagnosed children. Lastly, they wanted to determine if communicative vocalization at age 2 would predict the child’s nonverbal and verbal developmental level at age 3 more than non-communicative vocalizations would.

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Topics: The Observer XT, video observation, autism research, parent-child interaction, parent-infant dyads

Behavioral observations in autism research – mothers of high-risk children use more gestures

Posted by Olga Krips on Aug 6, 2013

Autism, language and gestures
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have delayed development in communication and language. This impaired development can be present even in the first year of their lives. The use of gestures, like pointing and nodding, is very important in communication. Impairments in the use of those gestures goes hand-in-hand with impairments in language development. This is seen in young children with ASD. But such deficits are also more common in infants and toddlers that have a higher risk on autism (HRA), because they have an older brother or sister that was diagnosed with ASD.

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Topics: The Observer XT, video observation, infant behavior, coding schemes, autism research, parent-child interaction, parent-infant dyads

Parent – child interaction – research in a lab and on-site

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Jan 28, 2013

Early in life, children are not capable of filling out a complete questionnaire or talking to an interviewer. In that case, observing behavior can provide valuable information in combination with parental interviews.

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Topics: The Observer XT, emotion recognition, infant behavior, parent-child interaction, Observation lab, human behavior research, parent-infant dyads

Examples of infant behavior research experiments

Posted by Annelies Verkerk on Jul 7, 2011

In infancy you can observe an explosive growth. A lot of researchers focus on this age group and observe parent-infant dyads to get more insight in specific behaviors. Experiments are often set up to study looking behavior, language acquisition, attachment, or learning behavior.

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Topics: The Observer XT, infant behavior, parent-infant dyads

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