The family is the first and longest context of a child’s development. Compared to other species, the human being develops slowly, requiring years of support and teaching before becoming independent. Our gradual journey towards maturity has left, and leaves, its mark on the social organisation of human beings. So families are permeable to the child’s learning and maturational processes, and parents are universally important in their children’s lives.
The early years are the most vulnerable period in any child’s development, so it is essential that parents are able to understand what their needs are so that they can stimulate them in the right way, helping these little human beings to develop in an appropriate way.
The impact of qualitative factors of parental interaction with the child, such as physical contact, verbal stimulation, emotional involvement or the absence of punishment and negativity from the caregiver, condition the child’s cognitive development. Poor parental stimulation of the child may lead to low cognitive development and possible behavioural problems. There is a significant association between the quality of interaction provided to the child by parents and important factors in the child’s later development (assessed at school age).
The sensitivity and appropriateness of parental responses to the child are of great importance, not only in the process of the child’s social and emotional development, but also with regard to cognition and language. The adequacy of the child’s stimulation is determinant for its good development.
The “behavioural dialogue” or “the conversation” that occurs between the mother and her child, with a view to establishing communication and enjoying each other’s company, are of extreme importance.
Mother-child interaction can be understood as a process where “the mother comes into contact with the baby, addressing some messages to him, and the baby, in turn, responds to her using his own means”.
Interaction occurs from the first contact of the mother with the baby, when she picks him up and speaks to him in a gentle and affectionate way, and the baby responds with a smile or vocalisations.
It is fundamental that the parents understand the synchronised movements of the baby’s tongue, lips, arms and hands as a communicative intention on his part, to which they must respond in an appropriate way.
This interaction assumes a triple dimension, since it takes place at three levels: behavioural, emotional and at the phantasmatic level.
In short, the type of interaction established between parents and child is determined by certain characteristics that are inherent to both and which interfere with the quality of their relationship with the child.