Maternal-infant synchrony: An integrated review of the literature

Brenda Baker, Jacqueline M. McGrath

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background A critical review of the literature was conducted to identify current science related to maternal-infant synchrony including: (a) definitions; (b) contributing factors; (c) measurement, and (d) how maternal-infant synchrony contributes to the continuum of the mothering experience. Methods Using the search terms maternal-infant synchrony, maternal-infant interaction and maternal-infant attachment, databases were searched including Medline, CINAHL, and PsychINFO. Only English language research and integrated reviews published after 1985 and applicable to maternal populations and infants less than one year of age were included. Studies specific to multiple gestations or infants with congenital anomalies were excluded. Research comparing term and preterm infants was included as prematurity provides a context to study the emergence of neurobehavioural development and effects of dysregulation on maternal-infant synchrony. Based on the inclusion criteria, 23 published articles were included in this review. Results Numerous overlapping definitions of maternal-infant synchrony were found. Findings clearly identify several positive newborn outcomes related to maternal-infant synchrony, including development of attachment relationships, development of infant language skills and social-emotional competence. Most research on maternal-infant synchrony has been conducted within the context of the behavioural sciences and/or in laboratory settings employing videotaping, analysis and coding of behaviours. Tools to specifically measure maternal-infant synchrony are limited. Conclusion Synchrony is a dynamic, timed relationship that benefits both mother and infant. Synchrony reflects an appropriate fit between maternal and infant behaviour that develops from responsive and sensitive mothering and fosters infant attachment and ultimately social, emotional and self-regulatory growth and trust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-13
Number of pages12
JournalNeonatal, Paediatric and Child Health Nursing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Maternal-infant attachment
  • Maternal-infant interaction
  • Maternal-infant synchrony

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics


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