How infant massage enhances pedagogical attachment in families facing challenging circumstances
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AbstractThis doctoral research project aimed to contribute a needed in-depth understanding of the effects of infant massage for families around the times they faced stressful life events. It was developed in response to Bennett, Underdown and Barlow’s 2013 meta-analysis and critique of studies examining the influence of infant massage on young babies’ health outcomes, and their recommendation that future studies explored the effects for groups they described as ‘higher risk’. The research was underpinned by five key concepts identified as potentially important themes, namely touch, intersubjectivity, attachment, resilience and infant massage. Located in the constructivist paradigm, and using a praxeological case study methodology, this qualitative study used methods including video, storyboarding, interviews and questionnaires with families and practitioners. The central ethical issues were around the assent, consent and voices of three infant-carer dyads who participated in the filming, and addressed through an innovative matrix of approaches to informed consent, and co-interpretation of the data with families. Infant massage was found to facilitate a unique multi-modal form of joint communication which I termed ‘visceral interaction’. This connectivity was set in a series of delicately balanced and nested environments (Bronfenbrenner, 1979) and was found to enhance carers’ understanding of infants’ cues, respect for them as individuals, and to support intersubjective and attachment relationships. Infant massage can offer families a special environment focusing on the infant-carer connection, and offering important respite from the challenges that may disrupt its development. However, the environments surrounding the families, and timing of the programme were found to be critical; the massage context needs to support infant and carer feelings of containment (Bion, 1962) and regulation (Gerhardt, 2015) as they adjust to a new life phase. Drawing on these findings, this study recommends that future research focuses on practices which may support families’ increased participation in this vital service, and that there is a move to widen the offer of compassionate, respectful and individualised services to all families at this critical early stage.
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
SponsorsCentre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC) and the University of Wolverhampton
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