A study on how interactions with the father influence the infant's physiological regulation of emotions within the family

Auteur Nilo PUGLISI
Directeur /trice Professeur Nicolas Favez
Co-directeur(s) /trice(s)
Résumé de la thèse



Theoretical background and general objectives: Emotion regulation (ER) is crucial in understanding how the parent-child relationship shapes the child's psychological development. This study focuses on how early interactions with parents shape infants' ability to regulate emotions, observable at a physiological level. While research has mainly focused on the mother-infant relationship, the specific impact of the father-infant relationship on neonatal physiological regulation needs to be more noticed. Evidence indicates that mutual influences among family members affect parental behaviors, ultimately influencing child development. However, studies investigating the physiological regulation of infants have yet to explore the impact of mutual influences among family members on the associations between mother-infant and father-infant interactions and the physiological regulation of the infant. The general objectives of this thesis are based on these gaps.


Methods: 119 families were recruited during pregnancy. At three months postpartum, the families were invited to a meeting in a laboratory at the University of Geneva. Each parent was requested to interact with the infant while the other waited outside the room. These interactions were recorded, and interactive synchrony assessments were conducted to measure the interaction's quality. During interactions, an electrocardiogram (ECG) was also recorded in the infant to measure vagal tone, an indicator of ER abilities. Furthermore, parents completed questionnaires before birth and in the four weeks following the appointment.


Results: Overall, the results of this study confirm the impact of the quality of mother-infant interactions on the infant's physiological regulation. Fathers do not directly influence infants' regulatory processes, but an increased time spent with the infant in the mother's presence heightens the likelihood of direct influences. Fathers may follow an indirect pathway of influence, as they indirectly impact mother-infant interactions and infants’ regulatory processes during interactions with the mother. The results showed that mutual influences between family members and family interactions play a role in infants’ regulatory processes. Furthermore, the results indicate that interdependencies among family members play a role in exacerbating the negative impact of risk factors, such as parental depressive symptoms during the prenatal period, on the quality of parent-infant interactions.


Conclusions: In conclusion, the study highlights the importance of considering family interactions beyond the mother-child dyad in understanding the development of an infant's ER abilities. It provides valuable insights into the nuanced role of fathers in shaping infant ER and family dynamics, contributing to a better understanding of how family influences early socioemotional development.

Statut à la fin
Délai administratif de soutenance de thèse 2024
URL https://www.unige.ch/fapse/psychoclinique/unites/upcri/membres/nilo-puglisi/