Negotiating Social Boundaries

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The following video clips capture a social interaction between Talia, 12 months old and Brady, 2½ years old. Brady’s teacher took the first clip as she observed their interactions from a distance. Talia’s teacher took the second clip as Talia was sitting in her lap. Both clips reveal interesting perspectives. The encounter begins when Brady approaches Talia, gently touching her hair and patting her back. He then bends down to be at eye level with her. As the interaction continues, Brady touches Talia’s face, arms, legs and feet. At times Brady touches Talia’s hair in a way that upsets her slightly. Talia expresses minor discomfort, and both children look to their teachers for cues about what to do next. Throughout the experience, Brady uses non-verbal communication with Talia almost exclusively. • What are the benefits of both styles of videotaping an experience – from a distance and from up close? • What emotional responses did watching this interaction evoke, and why? • Do you believe the teachers should have intervened, and if so, why? • What message do you think the children’s teachers sent them by not intervening? Here are some key moments in the video that increase our desire to know what the children are thinking. 00:35 Brady smells Talia’s hair then puts his cheek to her hair. Is he thinking about hair as a sweet object like a flower, or hair as a personal part of his friend Talia? 00:53 Talia laughs. Has she enjoyed Brady’s touch? Does her laugh encourage Brady to continue his touching? 01:32 Brady has been gently lifting Talia’s hair, but at this point he moves her hair laterally. Then he looks at Talia’s face. Is he looking to see if she likes the way he has rearranged her hair, or is he looking into her eyes to see if she is okay with the way he has tousled her hair? 01:48 Brady grips Talia’s foot gently. He lifts it a little, jiggles it, and slightly twists it. At that point Talia pulls in her foot. Is Brady exploring the range of motion of someone’s foot, while at the same time being respectful of staying within limits of comfort for that person? Or does he continue to move her foot until he gets a reaction from her? 02:02 Brady must have something stuck to the middle finger of his left hand. He pauses to get it off. At one point he dangles his hand, perhaps to show Talia that something is stuck to his finger or perhaps hoping that gravity will cause the annoyance to fall off his hand. Talia looks over at the teacher. At 12 months could she implicitly be asking the teacher, “What is he doing?” or do you think her look is more general at a time when the play script has changed and she just needs an okay sign from the teacher? 02:13 Brady squeezes Talia’s cheeks. She makes no attempt to push his hands away, but she does look over at the teacher with a slightly sore look. Does she like the squeeze to her cheeks, or does she not know what to do to stop it? 02:15 Is Brady checking in to see which it is when he tilts his head to look at Talia’s face? 02:24 Brady pulls lightly on Talia’s hair and then pulls lightly on Talia’s cheek. Could he be exploring the difference between soft hair and soft skin? How much of his interest in these explorations comes from his sense that Talia is a little person and how much from the sense that bodies have intrinsic interest to other bodies? Think about the questions we have raised as you watch the rest of the video clip. Keywords: Infants, Body, Self, Other, Mind, Child-Child Length of video: 3 minutes 53 seconds