We examined whether there are differences in the lateralization of expressive gestures in infants during normal and stressful interactions with their mothers and the relations between their gestures. Thirty full-term 6-12 month-old infants were videotaped during the Face-to-Face Still-Face paradigm. We coded the occurrence and lateralization of infant self-directed and other-directed gestures and maternal proximal and distal gestures. Infant self-directed gestures increased from the Play to Still-Face episode and decreased from the Still-Face to Reunion episode. Other-directed gestures decreased from the Play to Still-Face and increased from the Still-Face to Reunion episode. During the Still-Face, self-directed gestures were predominantly performed with the left side of the body. Maternal gestures were not lateralized, but there was a prevalence of distal gestures in the Play and Reunion episodes of the paradigm. Left-sided infant other-directed gestures and left-sided maternal gestures were associated with each other. The findings highlight a differential utilization and lateralization of self- and other-directed gestures related to context and the stress experienced by the infant as well as to maternal gestures. These results are suggestive of a brain asymmetry, but an asymmetry related to emotional engagement and stress regulation.
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