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Infant Emotional Expression

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Infant Emotional Expression

Expression of Happiness and Smile Types

The purpose of this paper is to describe infant expression of happiness and to inform findings of research relating to smile types in infants as well as to inform about potential relationships between smile types, play type and parent gender.

In a professional book, Laura E. Berk (2002) describes how infants display emotions and how caregivers respond to them. According to Berk, research has been done to find out how infants and toddlers communicate their emotions and how they interpret the emotions of others. The research provided that emotions play an important role in the organization of the developments that Erik Erikson thought to be important; relationship with caregivers, exploration of the environment, and discovery of the self.

Because infants are not capable of describing what is it they are feeling, it is difficult to determine what it is they are experiencing. Although this is true it is also true that vocalization and body movements are ways in which infants provide information and communicate. Despite this useful information, facial expression is the form of communication that provides the most reliable cues (Berk, 2002).

Happiness is an emotion that is first expressed through smiles and later expressed through laughter. It is an emotion used to express delight and to announce that something new has been learned. A smile expressed in a child's face motivates affection and stimulating behavior from caregivers which in turn make the infant smile even more (Berk, 2002, 257). Happiness in an emotion that brings baby and caregiver closer to each other, it brings them together and helps develop a warm and supportive relationship (Berk, 2002).

Soon after birth babies show reflexive smiling which may be seen to express fullness after eating or may be a smile during sleep, this is because reflexive smiles usually occur when the infant is not in an alert state (Berk, 2002; Developmental Psychology, 1997; Univ. of Illinois). Other smiles soon after birth include smiles in response to gentle sounds, gentle touches or in response someone else (Berk, 2002; Univ. of Illinois). Between the age of 6-10 weeks they develop the social smile. By the age of 3 months, infants smile at the time of interaction with other people. By 3-4 months of age infants smile more frequently. Laughter also appears during the 3-4 months of life and usually happens after very active stimuli such as the kissing of the infant's stomach (Berk, 2002; Univ. of Illinois). At about 6 months of age, infants smile and laugh more often and this occurs when they interact with familiar people. At about 10 months to 1 year an infant is capable of smiling in different ways. The infant is able to give a more lively smile to a parent or caregiver and a more reserved smile to a stranger (Berk, 2002).

According to journal article written by D. S. Messinger, A. Fogel, and, K. L Dickson (1999) all [ordinary] smiles occur when the zygomatic major contracts resulting in the lifting up of the lip corners and to the sides of the face. A more distinguished smile is called the Duchenne smile because it involves contractions of a muscle that make the cheeks rise around the eyes. Another type of smile is the open-mouth smile and this is when the corners of the lips are raised and the jaw is dropped. This type of smile is also known as play smile and is most commonly seen in infants ranging between 10 and 18 months old during physical play with fathers and during social games. The duplay smile is a smile that blends both the Duchenne and the open-mouth smile resulting in a smile that involves both the raising of the cheeks and the opening of the mouth (Messinger et al, 1999).

The article by Messinger was a study on different types of smiling. More specifically it compared Duchenne and non-Duchenne smiles in 13 infants, 8 male and 5 female, in a longitudinal study from 1 to 6 months of age. The study consisted of the children being videotaped in face-to-face interaction with their mother during a five minute weekly session (Messinger et al, 1999).

One of the questions addressed in the study was whether Duchenne smiles emerged from non-Duchenne smiles. According to the results of the study 60% of Duchenne smiles were followed by non-Duchenne smiles while 30% of non-Duchenne smiles were followed by Duchenne smiles. While a Duchenne smile was typically followed by a non-Duchenne smile, non-Duchenne smiles relaxed into non-smiles or ended instead of being followed by a Duchenne smile. In terms of duration it was found that non-Duchenne smiles that were followed by Duchenne smiles were shorter in length that non-Duchenne smiles that were followed by non-smiles. Duchenne smiles that followed non-Duchenne smiles were longer than Duchenne smiles that followed non-smiles. In brief, Duchenne smiles lasted longer than non-Duchenne smiles.

In comparison to the above study on Duchenne smiles, another study was done by Messinger et al (2001) to examine the types of smiles infants produced when gazing at their mothers faces. The study included 13 infants in a longitudinal study from 1 to 6 months of age who were observed weekly. Mothers were asked to play with their infant as they would at home but were not provided with toys. Mothers were seated in chairs and held their infants in their laps to play with them as they pleased (Messinger et al, 2001).

According to the results of the study infants performed different types of smiling in different periods in interaction and these differences tended to grow stronger with age. Smiling alone without the rising of the cheeks or open mouth appears to be a positive event as it seemed to occur while the mother was smiling and during visual engagement with the mother. The Duchenne smile occurs in situations when the infant corresponds to the mothers' display of affection. The open-mouth smile occurs during visual engagement with the mother and the duplay smile occurs during both visual engagement and during mother's display of affection. As age progresses infants tend to engage more in open-mouth cheek-raise smiling during interactions that combine both visual engagement and mothers display of affection.

In a study done by L. Dickson, H. Walker and A. Fogel (1997) the relationship between smile type and play type during parent-infant interaction in the home was examined. In the study, 36 families participated. Of these 36 families there were 17 female infants and 19 male infants. Each family was visited by two students, filled out consent forms, talked for about 10 minutes prior to the videotaping session and

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