Music therapy microanalysis of parent-infant interaction in a three-month-old infant later diagnosed with autism
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IRCCS Stella Maris Foundation, Pisa, Italy
University of Pisa, Italy
Submission date: 2016-08-23
Final revision date: 2016-10-26
Acceptance date: 2016-10-27
Online publication date: 2016-12-02
Publication date: 2016-11-29
Health Psychology Report 2017;5(2):151–161
Infant research literature has described for a long time the main aspects of parentese (motherese and fatherese) referring to musicality and specifically to musical language. It is believed that there is a deep analogy between the vital affects experienced by the child during interaction with the parent and the type of parentese that is a direct representation of them. Disruption of parentese has been described in early autism. The aim of this paper was to achieve a better understanding of this disruptive process.

Participants and procedure
Sequences of parent-infant interaction extracted from one home movie of a child later diagnosed with autism were analyzed in a micro-musical way in order to create a musical score that allows the description of parent-infant interaction in a new way (considering form, pulse, rhythm, melody, timbre and silence).

Musical microanalysis is able to highlight features not brought out by other kinds of analysis. The first fragment is dominated by the anxiety of the mother, who attempts to stimulate the unresponsive infant. In the second fragment there is a change in musicality parallel to changes in the relationship: the mother participates in and coordinates the infant’s experience through rhythm, prosody and musical dynamics. This change persists in the third fragment.

Musical transcription of parent-infant interactions has allowed us to highlight changes occurring in a short time during early interactions and to get a closer view of the disruptive process created by autism. This kind of research represents a potential shift in autism research, by focusing on dynamic parent-infant interactions instead of single behaviors of the child or of the parent. The usefulness of Stern’s concept of intersubjective communion is discussed.
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