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Exploring the Interactional Instinct$
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Anna Dina L. Joaquin and John H. Schumann

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199927005

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199927005.001.0001

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Infant Attachment and Language Exposure across Cultures

Infant Attachment and Language Exposure across Cultures

(p.15) 2 Infant Attachment and Language Exposure across Cultures
Exploring the Interactional Instinct

Gail Fox Adams

Oxford University Press

This chapter describes ethnographic studies of childcare practices by the Oriya in India, Beng in the Ivory Coast, Gusii in Kenya, and Chillihuani in Peru and examines the cross-cultural applicability of the interactional instinct theory (Lee et al., 2009). The theory argues that typically developing infants have an instinct to interact with conspecifics, especially primary caregivers, and that primary caregivers may have an instinct to respond. It also positions attachment as a neurobiological outcome of these interactions and a prerequisite for language learning. Because of cultural variation in caretaking practices, however, one must ask if the studies that support the theory rely too heavily on dyadic childcare models and if it is relevant in societies that practice polyadic childcare. Thus, the chapter examines infants in the polyadic care societies of the Beng, Chillihuani, Gusii and Oriya and reveals that the emotional involvement and interaction infants have with multiple caregivers are commensurate with what they need to become competent language users in their communities, thus broadening the applicability of the interactional instinct theory.

Keywords:   attachment, language acquisition, social interaction, infants, polyadic childcare, ethnographic studies

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