Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Developmental Psychology

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Lynne Koester

Commitee Members

Nicole McCray, Lois Muir, Paul Silverman, Meg Ann Traci


deafness, emotional availability, parent-child interaction, parent-child relationship, touch


University of Montana


Much attention has been paid in past literature to deaf children's development, especially in regard to how they compare to their hearing peers over time. Most deaf children (approximately 90%) are born to hearing parents. In these cases, the child's hearing impairment can be difficult to accommodate due to the parents' lack of familiarity with ways of interacting without heavy reliance on the auditory modality. Using Deaf parents as a model for comparison, previous research has found that frequent use of touch for purposes of gaining attention is an important strategy when interacting with a deaf child.

The purpose of this study is to serve as a constructive replication of a previous study which examined emotional availability (EA) and amount of touch used by hearing parents and their hearing or deaf/hard of hearing infants (Pipp-Siegel, Blair, Deas, Pressman, and Yoshinaga-Itano, 1998). The current study is a constructive replication because it examines EA and touch, which are the same constructs used in the Pipp-Siegel et al. (1998) study, but with the addition of Deaf parents. Also, the functions of touch displayed during 10 minute free-play interactions were coded, rather than only the overall frequency as in the Pipp-Siegel et al. study.

The current study's findings differed from Pipp-Siegel et al.'s results in regard to directions of correlations and/or significant findings. Comparisons among all four groups revealed significant differences for sensitivity and child responsiveness, and hearing mothers with deaf infants tended to score lowest in means for the various subcategories of EA. Significant differences were found among all four groups for attentional and total touch, with hearing mothers of hearing infants using the least amount of touch during their interactions. It is of particular interest, however, that hearing mothers do appear to be adjusting their behaviors so as to incorporate more tactile contact when interacting with a deaf infant. Thus, their behaviors on this measure look somewhat more similar to those of Deaf mothers, who use touch frequently and effectively to maintain their child's attention.

Implications about the importance of support and interventions for hearing mothers with deaf infants are discussed



© Copyright 2012 Grace Silvia